Today’s news will no doubt make our Grandparents shake their spindly fingers at our Younglings: Apparently, 10% of secondary school children believe that tomatoes grow underground and almost 20% had no idea that potatoes do. Worse, 18% of primary school kids think the shiny white filling in their fish fingers is chicken or pork. And a third think cheese is made from plants!
These disturbing findings are from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). Their survey of 27,500 five-to-16-year-olds, reveal that British kids are a bit thick when it comes to their food – or so the Daily Mail will no doubt report.
Before we send all children to the stupid corner, remember only 2.75% of the entire country’s schoolchildren were surveyed.
I realise all surveys are representative samples of a population but this does remind me of my time in PR. A straw-poll we conducted in the office produced some exciting results which we turned in a headline-friendly press release. Our ‘survey’ made national news, despite the ‘Britons’ the papers referred to being just 280 people selling life insurance in Bristol.
PROs love surveys because the media gobbles up their results like Augustus Gloop gobbles up chocolate.
However, whilst most surveys are nothing more than a plug for the company conducting the research, the findings of today’s analysis of children’s knowledge of food should have us all shaking our fingers at someone. But who?
Who is to blame for our children’s ignorance? I imagine the papers will blame schools; the schools will blame the parents; the parents will blame the supermarkets.
For what it’s worth, I blame parents. How can a child be expected to know where their vegetables come from, when they are weaned on jars and pouches of slimy, tasteless crap because mothers can’t be arsed to mash a few carrots and potatoes?
Many children start life thinking food comes from jars, tins or cardboard boxes from the freezer. And whilst we can argue this is abuse, what if some mothers genuinely do not know how to prepare healthy meals for their children, perhaps because their parents didn’t know either?
Undoubtedly, there will be a small number of such examples, but I believe, most people just can’t be arsed to prepare fresh food for their family. Often, I include myself in that statement. Many times, I default to the fish-fingers and peas dinner as I can’t be bothered to wash, chop and cook a proper dinner. Of course, this is once a week, not every night.
Having worked in a primary school, I know they do a fantastic job in teaching children about healthy eating. The walls are plastered with posters of fruit and vegetables, and paper plates with scrunched-up painted peas and string spaghetti. Our school even has its own herb garden and vegetable patch.
So, how do we reach a generation of children who think pasta comes from animals? All the education in the world is not going to make a pork-scratching’s difference, if children are being fed kebabs and Big Macs for dinner. How will they learn to love food, when mummy and daddy show it the same respect they do for the cat’s litter tray?
Somehow, we need to reach-out to parents who do not have the skills, knowledge or confidence to prepare a simple healthy dinner. The NHS’s Change 4 Life programme is doing a commendable job, but I wonder how many people are receptive to their positive messages.
I offer no solutions to dealing with children whose habits have already been formed, however, I do urge all parents of weaning toddlers to chuck the jars of mush in the bin and mash up some veggies instead. This small sacrifice of time and effort will pay dividends.