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Food literacy in the fight against food insecurity

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What is food literacy? It is about understanding the impact of your food choices on our health, our environment, and our economy, and understanding that those impacts are not experienced in a fair manner. It can be defined as “a collection of inter-related knowledge, skills and. behaviors required to plan, manage, select, prepare and eat food to meet needs. “as well. Also, food literacy can be discussed as developing positive attitudes, skills and knowledge about food. Thus, it teaches about food and developing children’s healthy relationship with food, from land to table. 

Why we need to have a good food literacy is the key to understanding.  As a group, few of us understand the holistic history of our food. For example, only a few know the miles of burning fossil fuels to bring a tomato to your supermarket or how many calories in this “low-fat” granola bar. Most do not know the wages of the laborer who harvested your fruits. On the other hand, our food system has a multitude of issues.  Obesity, climate change, unhealthy diets, lack of access to food, concerns about food security, labor rights and many more are there.  The problems with the system can seem overwhelming, while the burden of finding reliable information often falls to the consumer. So being literate in food allows us to make informed choices that help us in a number of ways.

Every bite of food we chew has a story. The story should be known to be better I food literacy.  There are food literacy educating centers and organizations, who help the public understand the story of our food. It involves educating food sources, understanding the nutritional benefits of various foods, adapting to available foods, and preparing and storing food hygienically. In addition, to be able to maintain these skills throughout the highs and lows of life.

Food literacy may be discussed in terms of individual and social food literacy. The researchers identified three main components of food literacy at the individual level. The first is conceptual knowledge, which is the acquisition and understanding of food information (eg. learning how to prepare food, learning what foods contribute to certain types of outcomes). The second major component of individual dietary literacy is knowledge of procedures. That is, what does one do with the ingredients? How to make a meal? How to cook a particular meal etc. People learn “scripts” about how to cook food or behave in a fast-food place as opposed to a sitting restaurant.  Learning about such scenarios contributes to their understanding of food.  A third key element of individual food literacy is motivation to participate. This is necessary to apply their conceptual or procedural knowledge (for instance, being interested enough to purchase something but not motivated enough to do it themselves).

When it comes to food literacy at the societal level, studies have highlighted those guidelines, campaigns and educational initiatives play an important role in informing people about how to integrate food into their lives.

Poor food literacy behaviors may contribute to food insecurity in any country, and this could be serious in developed countries.  Even among the developed nations we can experience food insecurity due to poor food literacy. There are specific programs conducted by developed nations to improve food literacy among the public. These countries are working on these in different ways. Most cases they set a big goal with a participatory action plan focusing both parents and children. There are lots of organizations in the world working on advancing food literacy. Around the world, many organizations are using school-based culinary and agricultural programs to promote environmental stewardship and improve student health outcomes. Some of these organizations enriching student lives through food literacy education in the world are as follows. You can check some of them and see how they are working towards food security through food literacy.  It is always important to have an advanced knowledge of food literacy to keep up the sustainable food supply system to a country.

1. Ann Sullivan Centre, Peru

2. Bright Bites, Canada

3. Cidades Sem Fome, Brazil

4. CultivaCiudad, Mexico

5. Edible Garden City, Singapore

6. Edible Schoolyard, Global

7.    Farm to School Network, United States

8. First Nations Development Institute, United States

9. Food and Nutrition Education in Communities, United States

10. FoodCorps

11. Food Literacy Center, United States

12. Food Literacy Project, United States

13. Fresh Roots, Canada

14. Gardeneers, United States

15. Gitxaała Nation, Canada

16. Kitchen Garden Foundation, Australia

17. Rooftop Republic, Hong Kong

18. School Food Matters, United Kingdom

19. School + Home Gardens, Philippines


Saman Janaranjana Herath
Saman Janaranjana Herath
PhD (NRE). MBA (Fin). Associate Professor, University of Mount Olive, North Carolina, USA. Writer,


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