News about the climate crisis alerts us to the urgent need for drastic global change. Given this, it’s no surprise that a study of thousands of young people found that most respondents were worried about climate change, and more than 45% said worries about climate change affected them on a daily basis.
Young people experience high levels of climate anxiety which is characterized by feelings of fear, worry, despair and guilt and can negatively affect psychosocial health and well-being.
Acting for the climate is a proposed way to reduce climate anxiety by transforming negative emotions in response to the reality of pressing challenges into positive action.
Engaging with food systems presents a major opportunity to act on the climate crisis, as they contribute 21-37% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Home talks with parents or guardians and school programs have their place to help young people make connections between relationships with food, advocate for change in food systems or make more sustainable choices for the benefit of our common planetary health.
What is a food system?
A food system includes everything that happens to food from farm to fork. The food system also includes everyone involved in each of these steps, including us.
Every time we eat, we participate in the food system. Yet, partly because of the increasing number of steps between farm and fork, and the fact that in our dominant global economy food is positioned as a commodity to be consumed, there is a growing disconnect between people and the food system.
This disconnect has both contributed to the current problems caused by food systems and continues to perpetuate them. These problems include biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and global inequalities related to both labor practices and resource extraction.
Impact of daily choices
Many of us rarely consider the impact our daily food choices have on the environment. Those who rarely see our own potential to engage and transform the food system beyond eating mindfully.
Recognizing our role in the food system can be empowering, as it provides opportunities to act on the climate crisis.
Primary and secondary schools are a logical place to engage students in these issues because they are places where young people spend most of their day and institutions that aim to promote an educated and engaged citizenship.
Despite the potential of educational institutions to engage young people in food systems issues, many study programs around the worldincluding throughout Canada, what not to do This.
Beyond nutrition, cooking
For example, research on primary school curricula in 11 countries, including Australia, England, Japan, Norway and Sweden, shows that curricula tend to focus on nutrition education or cooking skills with little or no mention of how current food systems are destroying our environment or perpetuating gross social injustices. Canadian curriculum research has also revealed that curriculum policies tend to focus on healthy eating as a matter of individual choice.
Although most programs do not take a holistic approach to food systems education, there are many third-party organizations that have created resources for educators looking at food systems more comprehensively.
Nutrition and cooking are important for individual health. But this limited focus can be disempowering for young people because it ignores the positive impact people can have on transforming food systems to be fairer and more environmentally sustainable.
By showing the next generation ways to change our food systems for the better, we can not only reduce climate anxiety, but also ensure that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge and skills to create a more just and sustainable future. sustainable.
So how do we support these important issues in our schools? If you are a concerned parent, you can join the parent advisory committee at your child’s school or write to your school district to find out if there are any positive local initiatives and express your concern.
You can also write to your provincial or territorial legislative representative to advocate for the inclusion of these issues in the curriculum.
Outside of school, parents or guardians could find ways to engage children in discussions about food systems that go beyond nutrition. For school projects where a child has a choice of topic, or as a home project, encourage your child to research different organizations in your area that are involved in sustainable food systems work. Together, visit a local farm or start a small indoor or outdoor garden.
How a meal arrives on a plate
Another activity to start thinking about the overall impact of food systems is to explore how a meal ends up on your plate. You could ask questions like:
- What are the ingredients?
- Where in the world do all these ingredients come from?
- Who participated in the cultivation of the ingredients, their transport and the creation of the foods consumed?
- Have all these people been treated fairly?
- Was the environment damaged during the production of the food?
The analysis of even a simple meal can lead to complex thoughts and discussions about food systems and reveal serious social and environmental issues.
By looking beyond nutrition, food can become a powerful tool to empower young people for climate action, which, in turn, can lead to reduced climate anxiety and a feeling increased hope for the future.