How can we raise kids' awareness of the benefits of fresh food so they can make better choices?

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Jamie Oliver won the TED Prize wish last year. His wish was to create a Food Revolution in America, to change the way kids eat by teaching them how to cook and what fresh food can do for them. This is all in the effort to help fight to obesity, one of the largest health issues in the United States. OpenIDEO is all about getting a broader group of people to solve some of the world’s most difficult challenges, and this seemed like a great one to kick off with. Click on the active phase in the timeline above to participate.

If you have seen Jamie’s Food Revolution program, you may have seen the episode where he’s testing kids in a kindergarten to see if they know where food comes from. The children couldn’t identify a tomato. This highlighted a real issue of fresh food, the lack of knowledge, and how easy it could be to develop cooking skills for kids of all ages and skills. The kick-off OpenIDEO challenge is to explore, how we might raise kid’s awareness of the benefits of fresh food so they can make better choices. Better choices about the food they eat, the skills to cook it, and the knowledge to make these choices.

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The first five years of life are a time of rapid physical growth and change and these are the years when eating behaviours and future eating patterns develop. During these early years, children are learning what, when, and how much to eat.

Infants are biologically predisposed to accept certain foods and not others. This begins during pregnancy, when the fetus becomes familiar with the flavours of the maternal diet. However, children's food preferences are also determined by the kind and amount of foods they are available to them and they are influenced by the eating behaviour of others and the association of eating with social events and context.

Perhaps shifting our focus from children to adults, especially parents/primary caregivers, is a step towards the right direction. Changing the dietary intake of pregnant women and modifying adults' eating behaviours and patterns are as much important as having access to healthy food. Making eating a social event with positive connotations and enabling observation of desired eating behaviours from early on in life set the foundations for future eating patterns. In our proposal in this challenge for capacity building on integrated early childhood care and development (entitled: Educate the adult to educate the child) , we address the issue of eating under the wider topic of nutrition.

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