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Latest updates 09/26/2018

Here’s something for Canadians to chew on: 1.15 million children in this country live in a household that struggles with food insecurity. That’s one in every six kids who might arrive at school having skipped breakfast, or who haven’t got a packed lunch in their bag.

What happens when a kid doesn’t get enough healthy food to eat throughout the day? According to research from Pediatrics and the Journal of Affective Disorders, they’re more likely to have trouble concentrating on tasks, to be hyperactive, and to experience mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Lost opportunities in the kitchen cost kids their health

Kids growing up in food-insecure households also have fewer opportunities to develop cooking or gardening skills. Their parents are less likely to have the time or money to buy fresh ingredients for meals and cook them from scratch together as a family. Same goes for gardening. In order to teach their kids how to seed, grow, and harvest their own food, parents need both the space and time to build a garden—two things that are hard to come by when you’re struggling to cover the rent.

That lack of access to healthy food and food skills for kids can lead to serious health consequences, and not just later in their lives. Childhood obesity rates have increased tenfold in the past 40 years worldwide, affecting 13 per cent of children living in Canada. Obesity puts children at increased risk for developing a number of chronic health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and disability.

We need to stop ignoring that sixth child in the school cafeteria.

Teaching kids to cook sets them up for healthy habits for life

When kids are involved in cooking and have opportunities to build food skills and knowledge at a young age, it has a positive impact on their health that lasts into adulthood. A longitudinal study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that young adults age 18-23 who reported having at least “adequate” cooking skills were more likely to be preparing meals with vegetables and eating less fast food 10 years later.

Further, food education for children from low-income households has been linked to a variety of positive changes, including increased food and nutrition knowledge, increased consumption of healthy foods, and increased likelihood to cook and garden at home.

We believe that teaching kids where their food comes from and how to choose and prepare it is key to helping them develop healthy eating habits for life. It’s this philosophy that guides our approach to food education programs for kids at our partner Community Food Centres. According to our 2017 evaluation of child and youth programs, 89 per cent of participants said they knew how to use a kitchen knife safely, and 86 per cent reported knowing how to cook an egg. It’s skills like these that can set kids up for a lifetime of cooking for themselves and their loved ones, a habit that leads to better health and well-being.

As a society, we need to invest in upstream solutions that ensure every child has the chance to build food skills and knowledge. The health of the future generation depends on it.  

Does food education for kids matter to you? Support our programs for children and youth and help make a lasting positive impact on kids’ cooking and eating behaviours as well as their health. Donate today

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