I have so much appreciation and gratitude for the childhood I was given. Being raised with a Polish/ Italian heritage has many perks, but I’d say the delicious array of food would be at the top of the list. Since I can remember, my Italian grandparents have always had their shovels and bags of soil ready to go when the first signs of spring began to show. Fresh tomatoes, garlic, onions, cucumbers and peppers to make fresh salads and pasta sauces, what more could you ask for?! It was always a treat having lunch at my grandparent’s home, being able to walk 10 steps into their backyard and finding the majority of the ingredients needed for the meal right there at your fingertips. It was a special and grounding experience being given the chance to make the critical connection between the earth and the dinner table.
Yet in an age where we can connect to each other at an unprecedented global scale by the push of a button, we have seemingly lost touch with our connection to the very thing that keeps each and every one of us living and breathing: our food. Current lifestyle choices and eating habits are leading to what many are calling a global obesity epidemic. These lifestyle choices are not only impacting us, they are impacting and burdening the future of our children and our planet.
Obesity is a preventable and serious public health issue that has increased in frequency on a global scale over recent decades. This increase is a direct result of major changes in our cultural environment and daily behaviours. Delicious, inexpensive food that is high in calories has become overly abundant and heavily advertised. Sizes of the portions served have also increased, and eating out has become much more common. Water and milk have been replaced by sugar-filled beverages which are given to our children on a regular basis. But it is not just the dietary changes that have caused such a radical increase in obesity. Unprecedented technological innovations for the home, workplace and schools have all simultaneously reduced our physical activity. Urbanization has created car-dependent communities that make it much more difficult to burn calories while we complete daily errands or bring our kids to school. It is clear the community and culture we have founded in the 21st century is doing more to hurt us than help us.
Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and cancer. Additionally, it was recently found that children as young as 8 are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease that once impacted adults over the age of 40. These diseases impact the obese, their families, children, friends, employers, doctors and their governments. In addition to health and familial impacts, obesity can have significant psychological impacts as it can found much bias and discrimination comparable to racism. Due to the negative stereotypes related to obesity, weight bias can cause great inequities in employment, health, and education.
Canada – According to the Canadian Obesity Network, one in four adult Canadians and one in 10 children have clinical obesity, meaning immediate support is required for 6 million Canadians in managing and controlling their excess weight. A report published in 2010 estimates that the direct costs relating to obesity represent $6 billion, or 4.1% of Canada’s total healthcare budget.
UK – University College London researchers have found that the average age at which people become obese in the UK is decreasing, and may be stabilizing around the age of 10. Health problems relating to obesity costs the National Health Services an estimated £5 billion annually.
US – An estimated two out of three American adults (69%) are overweight or obese. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Obese children between the ages of 6-11 increased from 7% in 1980 to about 18% in 2012. Obese adolescents aged 12-19 increased from 5 to 21% over the same time period. In a population-based sample with participants aged 5-17, 70% of the obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
China – Obesity prevalence among preschool-aged children that reside in urban areas has increased by an eightfold, from 1.5% in 1989 to 12.6% in 1997. In a population of 1.2 billion people, China’s Ministry of Health has estimated there were 300 million obese Chinese people in 2012. This makes China the second most obese nation after the United States in number of overweight citizens.
These numbers are both frightening and dangerous. Overweight children increase the likelihood of adult obesity, as well as an increase in many health issues and weight-related risk factors (high blood pressure or blood sugar). By the year 2030, 41% of the world’s population is expected to be overweight. Approximately 42 million children worldwide under the age of five currently qualify as being overweight. Moreover, children today are the first generation predicted to live shorter lives than their parents. The total global economic impact of obesity is estimated at $2 trillion annually, or 2.8 percent of global GDP. But for the most part, childhood obesity is PREVENTABLE! For something that has such a high cost to human health, the economy and the environment, how can we as a society help to deter this growing epidemic?
GLOBAL FOOD EDUCATION
Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and global food education advocate, plans to eradicate these intimidating numbers by changing the way children eat. How? Through food education! As you can see in the video below (yes this video was also posted in this month’s introduction post, it’s just that good), there are children in the world today who don’t know what a tomato is.
This lack of knowledge about where food comes from is what Jamie Oliver hopes to address with this campaign. By providing children with classroom and practical food experience kids are given the necessary skills and knowledge needed to grow up making smarter food choices and leading healthier and ultimately happier lives. On May 15, Jamie Oliver launched the Food Revolution Day campaign urging the G20 nations to address this serious and imminent issue through ‘compulsory practical food education’ in schools across the globe. He wants children across the world to learn how to grow and cook fresh, nutritious food in their educational environments. As an international forum for global cooperation, the G20 proves to be an ideal target for Jamie Oliver’s petition. Oliver finds that the G20 is shifting its energy and attention from the diffused economic crisis to more practical actions that will lead to sustained global growth.
“My wish is to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity” – Jamie Oliver
Oliver’s campaign requires two main actions from participants: the first is to sign the petition supporting the initiative for compulsory practical food education in schools worldwide, and secondly to share the petition through various personal social networks. These two actions maximize Oliver’s campaign potential by asking the audience to make a public declaration of support. The future to Jamie Oliver is food education, aiming is to reverse the global rise in obesity and diet-related diseases. Oliver believes that it is a child’s right to learn how to grow and cook fresh, nutritious food at school. By creating the opportunity for children to learn about food, gardening and cooking, kids can be prepared with the skills needed to lead healthier and happier lives both for themselves and their future families. Food Revolution Day aims to engage and inspire people of all ages to learn more about food – from friends and family to schools, the workplace and communities worldwide, Oliver hopes to join these forces together in one unified voice to fight for real, sustainable change.
Food Revolution Day 2014 was a major success on many accounts. Over 9,000 schools registered for Jamie Oliver’s live cooking lesson, and resulted in a new Guinness World Record for the largest cookery lesson in one day. A total of 10,143 Food Revolution Day events occurred across 121 countries around the world, and #FRD2014 reached 1 billion people on Twitter. This year, Oliver provided an online cooking lesson for schools around the world to participate in. He provided downloadable resources including a lesson plan, colouring activities, gardening instructions, and many other activities for the children to get involved with. Oliver then posted an online cooking lesson for classes to follow, and the opportunity for schools to register online to notify Oliver of their involvement. Children from nursery to secondary school in Walker, Newcastle worked with chefs from Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant to create the ‘Squash-It Sandwich’ for Food Revolution Day.
In addition to signing the petition and participating in the online cooking class, Oliver provides many ways to get interested foodies involved. His website offers a wide array of nutritious recipes that are easy for parents to make with their kids. Oliver also suggests hosting a community-wide food event or having a cook-off with coworkers. In an attempt to further the voice of Food Revolution Day, Oliver was able to enlist a number of celebrities including Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney and Hugh Jackman for a rap urging listeners to sign the petition. By recognizing the strong and influential role these celebrities have on the audience, Oliver successfully utilizes this resource to create a louder and more widely received voice for this campaign.
Due to our cultural influences, society has indeed lost touch with the connections between the earth and the dinner table. Busy schedules and cheap alternatives have provided an escape route from homegrown gardens and fresh, healthy meals. Jamie Oliver aims to alter this trend by engaging and educating children in the origins of our food and healthy eating. By providing these opportunities at an educational level, students not only become aware of the issues relating to current consumption habits and health impacts, but they are armed with skills and knowledge necessary to lead happier and healthier lives. Through the Food Revolution Day campaign, Oliver intends to create a loud, powerful movement that motivates governments to take necessary action.