Let’s make food literacy education happen in Ontario

It’s time to add a critical new component to what has traditionally been known as the three Rs of education – reading, writing and arithmetic. This phrase has been around since the 19th century but students need much more of a foundation to go forth in the 21st century.

Food literacy is key to developing skills for a healthy life, both on a personal level but also for the health of our planet.

In Ontario, a private member’s bill, Bill 216, the Food Literacy for Students Act, has just passed its second reading in the legislature. This bill, the first in Canada, would mandate that food literacy included in the curriculum of every grade in Ontario schools.

This is incredibly exciting news but we’re not there yet.

The bill is to be reviewed by the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly so it is not a done deal.

Here is some background on Bill 216 and its contents.

The Food Literacy for Students Act, 2020 would be an amendment to the Education Act. It states:

“The Education Act is amended to provide that curriculum guidelines shall require that courses of study be developed in experiential food literacy education and healthy eating for every grade from grade 1 through grade 12. The courses of study must ensure that students are given opportunities to grow food, prepare food and learn about local foods. Every board is required to provide instruction in the courses of study and to provide training and support for teachers and other staff of the board. Completion of the courses of study are a requirement for obtaining the Ontario secondary school diploma, the secondary school graduation diploma and the secondary school honour graduation diploma.

Yes, let me repeat – it states, “Completion of the courses of study are a requirement for obtaining the Ontario secondary school diploma, the secondary school graduation diploma and the secondary school honour graduation diploma.

Students will need to be educated in food literacy in order to obtain a high school diploma.

Wow

We’ve come a long way from home ec classes that were supposed to be for girls who wanted to learn to cook. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with home economics.

In fact, the Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA) has been one of the main drivers behind the recognition of the need for increased Food Literacy. They have joined forces with like-minded groups, making presentations, writing media releases and posting an online petition to achieve a government response.

In a press release, OHEA states they believes that experiential Food Literacy education will better equip Ontario graduates with the essential life skills and knowledge to:

•select/prepare nutrient-rich food to promote growth and development, support positive health outcomes, and help reduce healthcare costs;

•appreciate local food, food production challenges, food safety, and food security;

•reduce dependency on food banks and convenience foods;

•support family food budgets, promote family mealtime, and reduce food waste;

•increase self-reliance,especially in times of emergency or pandemic;

•prepare to leave home and make wise consumer choices.

Being food literate is important to help children and adults navigate a complex food environment and enable them to make healthy food choices that satisfy their preferences, cultural traditions, and nutritional needs. Food literacy is particularly important in the early years, when children are developing the eating patterns and skills that they will carry into adulthood and pass on to future generations.” Food Literacy in Ontario, Nutrition Connections and Ontario Public Health Agency

As Covid-19 unfurls, and families cocoon at home, we observe an even greater need for essential food and life skills education.”, says Mary Carver, P.H.Ec.,Former OHEA Food Literacy Coordinator.

The Food Literacy for Students Act, 2020 must still pass through another reading as well and if you live in Ontario, please play a part in making sure this happens. Please email your MPP to let them know that you support the bill.

To find your MPP’s contact information, click here. Also consider sending ccs to the following:

Hon.Doug Ford,Premier of Ontario –  doug.fordco@pc.ola.org

Hon.Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education – stephen.lecce@pc.ola.org

Hon.Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture Food &Rural Affairs -ernie.hardeman@pc.ola.org

Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health -christine.elliott@pc.ola.org

Hon Jill Dunlop, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services/Associate Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues – jill.dunlop@pc.ola.org

Committee Clerk -Valerie Quioc Lim – comm-legisassembly@ola.org for distribution to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly Caucus

Legislative Assistant-Bill Daverne –  Bill.Daverne@pc.ola.org for distribution to the Caucus and Legislative Assembly

OHEA –Ontario Home Economics Association: info@ohea.on.ca

Let’s get this done. Our kids deserve to learn these skills which can last a lifetime – a long lifetime for both our younger generation and the land they plan to live on.

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Children's Health, Food Security, Nutrition News

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Let’s make food literacy education happen in Ontario”

  1. Lee Ann R Scammell
    December 12, 2020 at 4:13 pm #

    When the education community dropped ec. from the school curriculum it started a whole new life hump our young people to climb over. If it wasn’t for ec on my weekly class list in the fifties, sewing, baking and cooking would have been quite the learning chore in my future. I helped teach young 4th and 5th grade students, boys and girls in Quebec in late eighties to prepare healthy meals, from breakfast to dinner. The parents and students appreciated the help and we had a great time.

    • December 15, 2020 at 12:42 pm #

      Yes, teaching kids about food is key to equipping them for healthy living. And being able to teach them when they’re young can have a tremendous impact! I didn’t know that kids were being taught in Quebec in those lower grades, especially at that time. Kudos to you for contributing! Hopefully it will become a standard here.

  2. F.Ardyth Elliott
    January 22, 2021 at 10:13 am #

    As a home ec teacher who helped write our area curriculum making it more family oriented, I strongly support this initiative. I used to tell my student (girls and boys) I was liberating them. Making wise personal food choices was their first step to adulthood.

    • January 25, 2021 at 1:06 pm #

      I love that concept that making wise food choices is their first step to adulthood and that you were liberating them by teaching them about food. It would certainly resonate with this age group. Thank you for your contributions as a home ec teacher!

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