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FeedBack: Food Literacy for Canadians

A phone sits on a cookbook and magazine about food

Kristin Mattice, Melissa MacKinnon, Shannon Cartwright and Midian Nascimento dos Santos are research assistants with Food From Thought.

Kristin is a PhD student in Food Science at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), studying the structure of meat alternatives. Melissa is a PhD student in Population Medicine in the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) and her research focuses on antimicrobial resistance. Shannon’s PhD work in OVC examines dairy cow resilience to factors of climate change. Midian’s work in the Animal Bioscience department at OAC will look at broiler chicken growth rate and welfare in conventional housing systems. 

FeedBack is a blog of reflections by the 2017 AFI-FFT Grad Cohort on their experiences so far in the program.

With the help of the Food From Thought program, we have assembled an interdisciplinary team comprising members from food science, pathobiology, population medicine and animal bioscience departments. Despite our wide range of backgrounds, we discovered a collective interest in the food literacy of Canadians. Research has shown that food literacy is a factor in attitudes and perceptions toward food, the understanding of food-related information, the selection of food and excessive food waste. From a review of the literature, our group has recognized the importance of developing good food literacy starting from youth, as a method of improving food choices, decreasing food waste, decreasing risk of chronic disease, and increasing the likelihood of carrying these values into adulthood.

Many Canadian organizations have pointed to lack of universal food literacy being a major contributor to poor food choices leading to issues including chronic diseases. They argue that by incorporating food literacy into the school curriculum, grocery stores and making information more accessible overall, these issues will be reduced. In Ontario, there are currently stakeholders lobbying the government to have food literacy placed back into the curriculum. Nationally, there are groups interested in food literacy initiatives including those that are curriculum-based. However, a report on Improving Food Literacy in Canada by the Conference Board of Canada identified an important knowledge gap, stating that it would be useful to have a review of the lessons learned and best-practices for curriculum-based global food literacy initiatives to maximize the effectiveness of food literacy initiatives.

Our team is setting out to systematically review the successful food literacy initiatives that have been incorporated into school curriculums, and those that have been evaluated for effectiveness. While our interdisciplinary group has become passionate about this issue, we could not have come together if it had not been for Food From Thought program. This program also allows our work to support the needs and interests of other researchers and community partners, increasing the strength and reach of our project. While still in the early stages, we are optimistic about our project, for its potential to benefit Canadians, community members with shared interests, and our school.