For Mary Carver, a professional home economist, it is hard to imagine — a 20 year old that doesn’t know how to crack an egg; a shopper wondering why he couldn’t find bananas local to Ottawa; a senior no longer eating eggs because her doctor had told her to stop eating dairy products.
The stories that Carver can rattle off are incredible, and also terrifying for someone whose job it is to ensure that we can feed ourselves.
Her experience at the Ontario Home Economist Association (OHEA) has her ears and eyes wide open for people that don’t know a few basic skills that others take for granted. Making our own meals.
Now before we go any further, let’s define making our own meals. (At least to me) Kraft Dinner, doesn’t count. Neither does a lasagna from M&M Meats, a McCain Thin Crust or Fish Sticks from ‘The Captain”. Making our own meals is putting the word ‘making’ to work. It may involve a bowl for mixing a few things together, a bit of creativity when one ingredient is missing and even some intuition beyond the microwave timer to tell you when to move on to the next step or when supper is ready. This seemingly lost art of making our own meals has both Mary and me concerned.
For her, the concern stems from some troubling trends. “Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity are all on the rise,” she points out. “The evidence is there that we are not eating well.”
It’s hard to argue. Processed food consumption continues to climb, people of all ages find themselves eating out more, and other things always get in the way of cooking up that traditional meat and potato dinner that many of us grew up on.
It’s time to take some action and Mary, along with the OHEA, think they know the answer — teach kids how to cook for themselves. This novel idea of using the education system to share life skills that are clearly lacking is why they are calling for the Ontario government to introduce a mandatory food and nutrition course at some point through a student’s high school career. With seven to choose from (page 151 in this document if you’d like to see what they look like), this solution may offer some incredible benefit that not only the students today will be better with, but that us in the production of that food can help with.
Is there an opportunity for more students to tour farms, talk in-class with visiting farmers and actually start to THINK about food beyond a fad-diet or cleverly written label? Critical thinking about where food comes from, how it is produced, and opening eyes to the common marketing tactics are all tools that students can take home and use everyday, three times a day. How many other courses that you took in high school do you use that often?
Mary Carver and the OHEA have a petition online to try to round up support and will be chatting with Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne about the possibility. She is hopeful, noting that Wynne mentioned a number of years when she held to role of education minister that she fully believed a food and nutrition program should be mandatory after the system was comfortable with a 4 year high school curriculum instead of the previous five. More than a decade after that change, surely the system is comfortable.
It is also a great time to start building bridges to back to the farm fields. Farm groups need to take up this cause with the Home Economists to show their support for a course that is so closely connected to our own livelihoods. Farmers need to prove that we are serious about educating consumers on food production, and in the classroom can be a tremendous route to do that.
Just think about the possibilities. A beef farmer on different ways beef are produced while a roast cooks in the oven. A vegetable grower on what crops can grow on what soils, and then make a fresh salad. An egg farmer on the pros and cons of each housing system for hens and then student crack an egg (so that Mary doesn’t meet anymore 20 year olds that can’t even make a fried egg sandwich for themselves.
This isn’t about talk anymore. This is about action. It is time for the farm industry along with the education system to solve so many of today’s critical issue with one class. It’s time for Ontario to bring back food.
Share your thoughts online at #BringBackFood and push your local politicians to do the same.