EIT Food project to “provoke holistic and healthy thinking” toward food systems
22 Dec 2022 --- With the end goal of slashing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and waste in the long term, EIT Food’s international, three-year project, FoodScienceClass, has shifted into high gear with ready-to-use tools for teachers to encourage youngsters to approach food holistically and healthily.
“Our educational approach is anchored in viewing the issue of “food” as a socio-scientific issue, a scientific issue that involves engagement in public discussion from multiple disciplines and perspectives, like the economy, society, and culture,” Dr. Keren Dalyot, FoodScienceClass project lead, Technion, Israel tells NutritionInsight.
FoodScienceClass publishes its materials and lesson plans to all teachers and educators. The ready-to-use materials are free of charge, available in English, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, Finnish and Hebrew, and targeted to children from nine to 14 years.
They include lesson plans on food processing, food waste, data literacy, science communication and more.
“We capitalize on studies from science education that have found positive correlations between interest and various learning indicators and studies that found that students are interested in nutrition and food,” Dalyot says.
Critical thinking to reign in a degraded food system
Students research and critically assess food production and nutrition challenges and opportunities with their teachers and food engineering researchers in the FoodScienceClass program.
The participants from Israel, Poland, Finland and Belgium tackle real-life food science issues and explore their own biases and misconceptions about food. Science literacy and communication modules are at the heart of the project to examine practical ways to convey scientific findings, including social media channels.
“There are relevant studies that confirm that an individual’s knowledge does not necessarily translate into the ability to critically evaluate information or make informed decisions. Thus we developed the FoodScienceClass project utilizing these important insights from educational research but also using our experience,” explains Dalyot.
The students are taught about the food system’s global aspects, including sustainability and local and personal factors, such as seasonal produce.
“We believe that this approach has the most potential to advance in our younger generation a holistic and comprehensive approach to the food system, an approach that will develop with them over time as they continue to engage with food and make decisions about food throughout their lives,” she explains.
An example of the approach can be seen in EIT Food’s reading food labels unit. Students are asked to bring food wrappers and boxes to class, followed by discussions about why they buy, eat or like these items as opposed to others.
Developing skills in identification
FoodScienceClass was carried out from 2020 to 2022 with a collaboration between Belgium, Finland, Israel and Poland and six partner organizations Technion (Israel), IARFR PAS (Poland), EUFIC (Belgium), Rikolto (Belgium), Food Bank in Olsztyn (Poland) and VTT (Finland).
“In the unit about evaluating online sources, before we even discuss how to evaluate the content, we discuss how they can evaluate the source itself, so it is not just about current misconceptions, but also developing skills for identifying and evaluating them in the future as well,” Dalyot outlines.
“For example, if they read a post about how cow milk is bad for your digestive system, and this post is written on a vegan-friendly account, there is some bias involved. We also show them conflicting headlines from news items, e.g., ‘tuna is bad for you because it contains mercury’ vs. ‘eat tuna to keep your heart healthy.’”
“Making these complex judgments requires them to stop for a moment, think and evaluate, and not continue to share based on a nice image or a moment of reading,” says Dalyot.
The partners believe that their multidisciplinary teaching approach to food as a socio-scientific issue has great potential to facilitate healthy food choices in the future through collaborations with families, informal education, social media and local governments.
“The FoodScienceClass lesson plans are important food literacy tools to learn about healthy and sustainable food at school. They bring us one step closer toward a healthier generation,” says project partner Myrthe Peijnenborg at Rikolto, Belgium.
Meanwhile, companies offering innovations in omega 3’s, “smart” baby food, and collagen proteins are among those receiving a boost from the EU-sponsored EIT’s agri-food development division.
By Inga de Jong
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.
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