Healthy living begins with food and also depends on schooling

Healthy living begins with food and also depends on schooling

September 17, 2019

Healthy living begins with food and also depends on schooling

The Barilla Foundation’s latest publication is focused on schools. It analyzes the link between food and health and offers pupils and teachers tools for exploring this theme more carefully and with fuller awareness.

“Eating habits and lifestyles can have a significant influence on people's wellbeing and quality of life, and this is true from a very tender age.” This is the point of departure of the new document issued by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), titled “Healthy living: let’s start with food.” Authored by Elena Cadel (Barilla Foundation), with the scientific supervision of Professor Gabriele Riccardi of the Federico II University of Naples and the collaboration of Katarzyna Dembska and Marta Antonelli (Barilla Foundation), the publication is timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year, in September 2019. It contains a great deal of significant information on the links between food and health, and also vital updated data on how food choices affect the health of individuals and also of the Planet

Finally, but equally importantly, it offers practical advice and proposals for extracurricular activities, as well as a series of in-class exercises aimed at both primary and secondary schools

Know more to improve more

We can’t reasonably talk about healthy living if we don’t know much about the challenges of feeding the world today, and if we don’t realize that we are now facing a critical decision. "If we don’t intervene in our lifestyles, for the first time in the history of humanity, today’s younger generations will live shorter lives than those that preceded them", says the document. So it’s understandable that the first chapter deals with the concept of healthy living, starting from the description of various food paradoxes in the current global food system... such as the fact that today 821 million people every year die of hunger and 2.1 billion are obese or overweight, or that almost half (40%) of world cereal production is used to feed animals or produce biofuels, and 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted annually. “Both national and international political agendas must stop thinking exclusively in terms of food, and start thinking in terms of nutritional challenges” declare the authors. This means that “healthy living” must go beyond thinking about how much food we should eat, in order to think more about what kind of food we should eat. Faced with these great global challenges, the international community is acting on global initiatives such as the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals, but each individual too should act concretely by choosing to eat the foods best suited to human and planetary health, as illustrated by the double food and environmental pyramid developed by the Barilla Foundation. This too is discussed in the new document, designed to explain the importance of healthy living to young people and to their teachers.

Children’s health at risk

Obesity and overweight represent an increasingly serious public health emergency. This is demonstrated by international data showing that since 1975 obesity has almost tripled, and that today over 672 million people worldwide are classified as obese. But even more worrying is the fact that obesity has no boundaries, either in terms of geography or age. According to the FAO, in fact, among the twenty countries with the highest obesity growth rates, eight are in Africa. And globally there are roughly 40 million children under 5 who have problems of excess weight, a number that rises to 338 million in the age group from 5 to 19. The cause of this epidemic – which also involves adults in a big way – lies in unhealthy lifestyles. These include a lack of physical activity, an increase in the daily consumption of calories, and rising consumption of foods rich in sugar, fat, oils and salt instead of fruit and vegetables. These habits dramatically compromise the concept of healthy living, because they create a society in which from an early age children experience health issues such as breathing difficulties and joint and mobility problems, as well as psychological complications. Even in Italy, one of the most long-lived countries in the world, many food and health challenges persist, such as the fact that 37% of children and adolescents (ages 5 to 19) are overweight. To live healthy lives, we need action to correct our lifestyles, and this must involve various subjects involved at all levels, which especially includes teachers who deal with children on a daily basis.

School: learning about healthy living

Children and adolescents spend most of their days at school, which is why schools must play a leading role in promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging a preventive approach to avoiding health problems. As can be seen in the new document specifically aimed at teachers, there’s no lack of existing initiatives aimed at children. The European Union is convinced of the importance of the educational system and has launched an initiative to distribute fruit, vegetables and milk in schools. In Canada, the government supports a Farm to School project which provides opportunities to learn about healthy nutritional practices, while other virtuous projects are available in the USA, in South Korea and in Italy too. Italy currently has no overall government strategy on nutrition, physical activity and health, but initiatives have been activated to promote healthy lifestyles in schools. For example, the Ministry of Education’s Sport Class project - in collaboration with the CONI Olympic Committee - aims to promote physical activity in schools, while Giocampus, based on collaboration between public and private bodies in the Parma area, devotes attention to both healthy food and physical activity. Thanks to these examples and the educational proposals contained in the new document, useful new ideas are available to teachers and students, joining others already described on the www.noiilciboilpianeta.itwebsite, edited by Barilla Foundation experts and always active on the educational front. 

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