9 October 2007 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has issued a wide-ranging new guide on teaching good eating habits to primary school children in an effort to reduce malnutrition and diet-related diseases.
The agency notes that one of the most effective strategies for overcoming malnutrition and chronic diet-related diseases, such as excess weight and obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, is educating school children in healthy nutrition.
Good nutrition education helps children become aware of how to eat a well-balanced diet, how to prepare and handle food safely, and how to avoid food-related risks.
“What many people don’t realize is that it is not only the amount of food, but the quality of a diet that has a critical effect on children’s growth, health and learning capacity,” said Ezzeddine Boutrif, Director of FAO’s Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division.
“Eating is not just a biological process; it depends on learned habits and perceptions, on the cultural and social environment. This is why nutrition education is so important,” he noted.
Mr. Boutrif added that governments should make nutrition education a priority since teaching nutrition in schools can help reduce the costly impact of nutrition-related diseases in the future.
Chronic diet-related diseases are on the rise around the world due to new lifestyles and eating habits. Globally, 1.6 billion adults are overweight, and at least 400 million are obese, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
Peter Glasauer, FAO nutrition education expert, pointed out that globalization and economic development have introduced new foods and altered dietary habits and lifestyle patterns in many countries, particularly in developing States.
“Migration from rural communities to urban areas, for example, is on the rise with less and less people producing their own food and the majority depending entirely on commercial food supply. Nutrition education in primary schools is an effective way of promoting good nutrition,” he stated.