By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Adriana Olaya
Food is a core of humankind. We gather around food, celebrate and please ourselves with it, but most of all; we survive thanks to what we eat. Nowadays most of us don’t need to hunt or grow our own food anymore. Modern society facilitates everything. The supermarket shelves are filled with food and consumers just need to pass by, grab, open and consume it.
But what are we really eating? Do we know exactly what we are taking into our mouths? Where does it come from and how is produced? Is it harmful to our health? What type of ingredients are used? Is it from local or massive production? How are the conditions of the workers who produce it? Am I contributing to local sustainability or instead am I increasing social inequality? Is the production affecting the environment? We hardly ask ourselves these questions because no one ever taught us about it. No one ever taught us the impact of our food consumption on economic, social, political and environmental issues.
Learning about the food system is imperative to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the UNDP like ending hunger and malnutrition, reducing social inequality, improving health conditions and well being, ending poverty and reducing environmental impact and climate change.
The rise in childhood nutritional problems in the world is alarming: one one hand, according to the World Health Organization, worldwide 42 million children under the age of five are overweight or obese but on the other hand, deficient nutrition is the cause of almost half (45%) of deaths of children of the same age, meaning 3.1 million children each year.
In times of consumerism, most of our children are not even able to recognize some of the common fruits and vegetables in its raw form. They for sure know about fries, nuggets, nutella and ketchup, but they don’t know and understand anymore the life cycle of food. Where does it come from, how and where is it grown and even worse, they don’t understand the importance of nutrition and its function in humans' metabolism.
Children should learn at school from an early age on about the food system as they do learn mathematics, physics, chemistry or languages. They should be introduced to concepts of nutrition, crops, growing and harvesting, natural resources, food supply chain, seasonality, food policies, cooking, food miles, organic farming and other related topics to know the complete process from the farm to the fridge of the products they are eating.
The benefits of food and nutrition education reach far beyond the classroom; educating youth is a guarantee to have savvy, informed and aware consumers in the future that will shape the destiny of humanity.
A future generation who is aware of their impact as consumers can act responsibly towards a sustainable future of our planet and the human kind. It is the duty of governmental policies, social media, community leaders, parents, teachers, international organizations and in general the society to make this happen, we must all start taking responsibility for how we are feeding the world.