Last year, a group sent a letter to the Minister for Education asking him to consider a mandatory food subject for primary school children. The letter stated the importance of food education in our society and how beneficial this knowledge would be in developing our food culture. It also pointed to the health benefits of such a food education. And it spoke if the ways in which food education would create a greater value for food in our burgeoning society.
The response was deeply frustrating as it told us that food education lay in the hands of the parents. Do we only trust parents with teaching their kids maths? Or Irish? Do parents know how to teach their children about food? We are perhaps the third or fourth generation to be removed from the land, in that we could spend our whole lives never knowing where food comes from, how it’s grown and how it made it’s way to our plate. Do we care? As a society, I want you to ask yourself that question: do you care where your food comes from? If the answer is yes, then we really need to consider how we can get others to feel the same.
I feel the only way to do this is to start at the beginning. With the children. I meet kids in their late teens who cannot cook. Whose fault is this? Their parents? Society? Time and again on social media, I am told teachers do enough already. But my 9-year-old has already had a few lessons in computer programming! The personal computer is 40 years old. Our food culture is 10,000. I don’t think it’s a question of time or space on the curriculum: it’s a question of value. We don’t value food enough as a subject to teach it to our children. It’s that simple.
Food poverty and a lack of food education are the leading contributors in many health problems. Until we recognise this, our obesity epidemic will continue. Eighteen is too late to start teaching someone about food. What will you do?