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Food literacy is an essential skill that empowers individuals to make food-related decisions that benefit their health. The school is recognised as an important setting to develop students knowledge, skills and behaviours around healthy eating. 

In this article we discuss what is food literacy, why it is important and how it can be integrated into the classroom.

What is food literacy?

Food literacy is the inter-related skills, knowledge and behaviours that are required to plan, manage, select, prepare, and eat healthy food to meet your needs. So really it is the everyday practicalities associated with healthy eating (or eating in line with dietary guidelines). Research in the past tended to focus on just one or two of the elements of food literacy such as how to prepare a healthy meal, but this fails to capture the totality of the experience of food and its intake.

It is expected that the rise of diet related disease (such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers) has been linked to the poor eating habits, diminishing understanding and skill set around food and its use.

It is important to note that food systems are complicated, and in order to adequately navigate this system requires considerable attention and maintenance.

What are these Dietary guidelines?

The National Health and Medical Research Council outline in the Australian Dietary guidelines that Australians should consume a variety of foods from the 5 food groups every day. This includes.

  • Plenty of vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grain or cereal foods (mostly wholegrain and includes breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles etc.)
  • Lean meats and alternatives (including poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts etc.)
  • Dairy and their alternatives (including milk, yoghurt, and cheese)
  • Plenty of water
  • Limit consumption of discretionary foods (including those high in sugar, saturated fat, and salt)

Are children meeting these guidelines?

Children and adolescents in Australia consistently do not meet the guidelines for healthy eating including.

  • 91% of children are not meeting the recommendations for daily fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • 3% do not eat any fruit and 4.1% do not eat any vegetables!
  • Children eat up to 41% of their total energy from discretionary or ‘sometimes’ foods (that is foods high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt).

This places children at increased risk of poor physical health and growth, behavioural problems, poorer concentration, and lifelong disease.

Why food literacy is important for children?

Food literacy is important to establish in childhood as it forms the foundations of healthy eating habits for life as well as helping children to achieve optimal growth and development and avoid chronic disease later in life.

How to implement food literacy in your classroom

Implementing food literacy into the classroom doesn’t have to be complicated! Try using the FreshSNAP classroom resources designed to improve your classes knowledge about food, nutrition, and food literacy.



AIHW (2023)

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