School meals have been the subject of debate for so long that it has made significant modifications in several countries. During my time working with primary schools in Sunderland and Durham, I understood students’ curiosity and fascination for cooking and flavours. Some passionate head teachers who took initiatives to introduce people like us to light up their imagination on food made this possible.
Nobody is born with cravings for a burger or a can of coke, until we teach children the convenience and taste of fast food. Eating more non-vegetarian and junk food will not better your health; instead, they cause more health hazards to the future generation. Earlier, Americans thought that eating more meat, poultry and dairy to be healthier than diets with vegetables.
It has been proven now that after energy production, livestock production is the second largest contributor to atmosphere altering gases that cause global warming. You can imagine the pollution from methane (more poisonous than CO2) coming out of green houses growing billions of animals for food.
Obesity, heart problems and diabetes are becoming common among young people these days. In western countries, people have realised the danger and they have been trying desperately to fix the problems. Only time will tell how fast and effective ‘more plant and less meat diet’ will help the next generation and their ability to resist fast food.
Twenty years ago renowned American chef and restaurateur Alice Waters started her ambitious project Edible School Yard (ESY). She teamed with a local school in Berkeley, California.This revolutionary idea was born to change food habits of school children and establish a relationship with nature. Kids learned how to nourish themselves as they learned maths and science in the comfort of a vegetable garden and a working kitchen by cooking local and seasonal food. ESY has been a successful project and now branched out to over 3,500 schools worldwide.
In the last five years, London chef Jamie Oliver tirelessly worked with kids trying to educate them about healthy meals. He managed to influence British parliament to amend laws and improve budgets for school dinners. Oliver’s work has inspired people to look at this issue seriously.
Today’s children struggle to recognise plants and vegetables. They have no clue about these source or significance. Thanks to multinational food companies and restaurant chains, fast food has become an attraction for children in every country. “We could still turn things around, if we realise our role and inspire children to think about what they eat,” says Waters. We have to start from the basic school age and work our way up with the entire population. This job requires everyone’s participation. Fast developing nations like India has a huge responsibity to teach our youngsters about healthy living and to appreciate seasonal and fresh food.
There are plenty of laboratories to check what goes out of your tummy, but there are very little regulations or technology to control what goes in—this is a well-known fact today. So it’s time to act and take control of our children and the world, rather than hide under our desk and complain the system. Children are the future owners of the world, lets be aware of that as we teach them about life and the importance of eating healthy and fresh food.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants