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Why Australian kids need to learn more about food

Concerned about your children's food choices? A survey suggests more food education is needed

Gardening is a fun way to teach children about food

New research shows nearly half of Australian parents are concerned their child is unable to make healthy food choices, and 3 in 5 are concerned that their child prefers processed food.

The survey, conducted by Medibank and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, confirms the need for more to be done to improve the knowledge and confidence among Australian children to grow and cook fresh and healthy food.

“With one in four Australian children obese or overweight, it’s vital that we teach our children to eat well and to be active,” says Dr Linda Swan, Medibank’s Chief Medical Officer.

“This survey shows that we still have a long way to go to support our children to make healthy food choices for their future.”

Survey highlights parents’ concerns around children’s food choices

More than 1,000 Australian primary school children (aged 5 to 12) and their parents participated in the survey, which included questions based on what’s taught through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program is currently delivered in more than 800 primary schools, reaching over 100,000 students across Australia.

The survey found:

Only 22% of children correctly answered all questions about common fresh food sources

  • 1 in 4 didn’t know that butter comes from cow’s milk.
  • Not all children know that apples and bananas are grown on trees, that potatoes are grown underground, or that tomatoes are grown on vines.
  • Only 2 in 5 children know that summer/autumn is when tomatoes are ripe for picking.
  • More children in Victoria were able to correctly answer all questions about where food comes from and how food is grown, while children in South Australia and Western Australia were least able to correctly answer all questions.

24% of primary school aged children do not eat dinner around the table with their family regularly (i.e. 2-4 days per week, or less often)

  • Children who eat dinner around the table with their family at least once a week have better knowledge about where food comes from and how it is grown.

3 in 5 parents don’t believe their child would know how to bake a potato, and more than two in five don’t believe their child could boil an egg

  • Boys are less likely to know how to cook rice on the stove, how to bake a potato, or how to boil an egg.
  • Children who knew more about how food is grown and where food comes from were more likely to know how to boil an egg, bake a potato, and cook rice on the stove.

“By experiencing the joy of digging in the garden, children can learn not just about how important fresh food is, but also that it’s fun and delicious.”

 

Kids who help prepare meals at home know more about food and where it comes from

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, of which Medibank is the Principal Partner, supports schools and learning centres to teach children how to grow, harvest, prepare, and share fresh, seasonal, delicious food through a fun, engaging, and hands-on food education program.

The Foundation’s CEO, Ange Barry, says the program helps children form positive food habits at a young age that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.

“By experiencing the joy of digging in the garden, picking fresh veggies, smelling and tasting the food they prepare, children can learn not just about how important fresh food is for their overall health and wellbeing, but also that it’s fun and delicious,” says Ange.

The survey revealed that children who are involved in helping to grow fruits and vegetables and help with grocery shopping and preparing meals at home, knew more about where food comes from and how it is grown.

The survey found

  • Only 50% of children are involved in growing fruit and vegetables at home.
  • A third of children always or often help their parents with the grocery shopping.
  • Children who help their parents with grocery shopping, no matter how infrequently, are more likely to know where food comes from and how it’s grown, compared to those who never help with the shopping.
  • Around 85% of primary schoolers help prepare meals at home, with half helping at least once a week.
  • Girls are more likely to help prepare meals at home at least once a week.

Medibank has supported the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation since 2012, as part of its commitment to growing healthy kids.

“As recently highlighted by the World Health Organisation – governments, businesses and the community need to work together to address the rising trend of children becoming overweight and obese,” says Dr Swan.

“Medibank is proud to support and actively work with the Foundation and this program to help Australian children learn and adopt lifelong healthy habits.”

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