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LACA responds to BNF survey on children's lack of food knowledge

03 Jun 2013

Anne Bull, the chair of LACA, the professional association for school food, has responded to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) survey showing worrying levels of ignorance among UK children about the food they eat.  
She said: “LACA has been campaigning for some 15 years for practical cooking skills, nutrition and food to be a statutory requirement of study at school.

"The importance of understanding what a healthy diet should be and the ability to prepare and cook nutritious meals in order to improve the health and wellbeing of our next generation is vital.

"In our response to the Department of Education’s consultation on the draft curriculum earlier this year, we noted that the facilities available for practical cookery lessons will vary across state schools and therefore call on the government to ensure that all children have the necessary facilities to ensure they receive a good food education.
"LACA also believes that a healthy and nutritious  school lunch also has a pivotal role to play in the education of children about food nutrition.

"In addition to not only improving attainment and concentration in the classroom, the example of a healthy school lunch to pupils can translate to a healthier diet outside of school.”

A spokesman for England's Department for Education said: "We want to encourage children to develop a love of food, cooking and healthy eating that will stay with them as they grow up."

He added that its curriculum reforms would make food and nutrition compulsory for eight-to-14-year-olds, while the new design and technology curriculum would allow teachers to explain food production.

"In addition, the Leon restaurant chain founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent have been appointed by the Secretary of State to lead an independent review of school food.

"The review is looking into what needs to be done to ensure that all pupils develop an understanding of food and nutrition."

Research conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) among over 27,500 children across the UK, shows that nearly a third (29%) of primary school children think that cheese comes from plants, one in 10 secondary school children believe that tomatoes grow under the ground, and nearly one in five (18%) primary school children say that fish fingers come from chicken.

The survey, the largest of its kind, was conducted as part of the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week, launched today by Princess Anne.

More than 3,000 schools are participating in the Week during which over 1.2m children will be learning valuable lessons about healthy eating, cooking and where foods come from.

Roy Ballam, BNF education programme manager, said: “Schools throughout the UK require a national framework and guidance for food and nutrition education to support the learning needs of children and young people, especially at a time when levels of childhood obesity are soaring.

“Through Healthy Eating Week, we hope to start the process of re-engaging children with the origins of food, nutrition and cooking, so that they grow up with a fuller understanding of how food reaches them and what a healthy diet and lifestyle consists of.

“The fact that so many schools in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have registered to participate in the Week demonstrates their understanding of how important healthy eating is and their commitment to giving children a solid grounding from which to create healthy lives for themselves.”

Further findings of the BNF study reveal that an encouraging number of the youngest primary school children recognise the eatwell plate – 64% of 5-8 year olds identified it correctly from four different images.

However, when presented with four pie charts and asked which best represented the eatwell plate, less than half (45%) of 8-11 year olds answered correctly.

Over three quarters (77%) of primary school children and nearly nine out of every ten (88%) secondary school pupils know that people should consume five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

However, 67% of primary school children and 81% of secondary school pupils reported eating four or less portions of fruit and vegetables daily, while two in every five children at secondary school don’t think that frozen fruit and vegetables count towards their five a day.