The Need for Food Sustainability Education

Updated: Jan 16

For seven years now, KIN has been focusing on improving child health through an interactive nutrition education program in schools. We teach the health benefits of consuming whole grains, fruits and vegetables of all colors, lean proteins (fish, chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts), and unsaturated fats/oils. We also recommend minimizing intake of added sugars, sodium, refined grains, saturated fats, red/processed meat, and highly processed foods as these have been shown to negatively impact human health. Our nutrition curriculum is meant to act as a general guideline, flexible to accommodate local and individual situations, cultural contexts, and dietary preferences.


Just as different foods can have differing impacts on human health, they can also have differing impacts on the environment! With our new 4th grade food sustainability curriculum, our focus is to instill the ideas of MODERATION and BALANCE and to promote a diet that is beneficial to both human HEALTH and the ENVIRONMENT. Through this new curriculum, our intention is to educate on changes we can make as individuals for a more sustainable and healthful food system!


Food, Health, and the Environment

Our diets are linked to both health and environmental sustainability, and have the potential to nurture the two simultaneously. Increased food production over the past 50 years has helped improve life expectancy and reduce hunger, but has also contributed to shifts toward unhealthy diets. This detrimental dietary pattern is characterized by high consumption of calories, highly processed foods (refined carbohydrates, added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats), and high amounts of animal products. Not only do these food choices negatively impact human health but are also unsustainable. Our current food system is driving climate change (increased greenhouse gas emissions), biodiversity loss, marine eutrophication, and detrimental changes to land and water usages.


In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission developed the world’s first scientific targets for healthy and sustainable food production, including the planetary health diet plate. This dietary pattern--characterized by high-quality plant-based foods and low amounts of animal-based foods, refined grains, added sugars, and unhealthy fats--was created to meet nutritional requirements while staying within planetary boundaries. A shift to a more plant-based diet has a transformative potential, lowering premature death risk by 7-19%; reducing food’s land use by 76%; food’s GHG emissions by 49%; eutrophication by 49%; and freshwater withdrawals by 19%.

Half should be filled with fruits and vegetables (starchy vegetables, like potatoes, are limited), while the other half should consist of primarily whole grains and plant-based protein foods, with unsaturated oils and modest amounts of animal-based protein foods. (Source: EAT, Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission)


Takeaway

As of now, making a radical shift in the food system is unprecedented and will take widespread, multi-sectoral action. Our goal is to do our part for the movement and begin educating youth on how they can make small yet impactful dietary changes for improved health and environmental sustainability. By forming habits at an early age, we increase the likelihood to adopt these healthy and sustainable behaviors into adulthood, thus spearheading the first generation of mindful consumers. Available on our website are more details regarding the new curriculum. We will begin implementing the food sustainability education program in 4th grade classrooms in Santa Barbara in January 2021 via Zoom. Check out future blog posts for more information on nutrition and food sustainability!

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