Food nutrition in schools gets teacher training boost

Food nutrition’s role in children’s academic development was discussed at the conference

Food nutrition in schools has been boosted by the launch of an online training course aimed at improving the knowledge of primary schoolteachers on the subject.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) course, ‘Teaching food in primary: the why, what and how’, covers food origins, Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide and healthy eating, nutrition understanding, food safety, and cooking in the classroom.

The course includes downloadable guides for reflective practice – where teachers study their classroom experiences to improve the way they work – and culminates in an assessment and BNF certification.

It was unveiled at the BNF’s 50th anniversary conference, ‘Talking about the next generation: Nutrition in school age children’, held in London last week (April 27).

Scientists and schoolteachers used the conference to discuss the importance of good nutrition in the wellbeing, growth and academic development of children.

Good dietary and lifestyle choices

Roy Ballam, md and head of education at the BNF, claimed it was critical for teachers to lay the foundations for children to make good dietary and lifestyle choices now, and as adults.

However, he added that most primary teachers had received virtually no formal training in food, nutrition and physical activity.

“It is because of this that the BNF believes that there is an urgent need to support these teachers during their training and when they are practicing,” he said.

“Our professional development programme is in-line with the curriculum demands, as well as government food teaching guidelines in schools, and will equip teachers to be able to implement engaging food lessons and healthy school initiatives, for the benefit of all their students.”  

Evidence for the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity on the academic achievements of children is accumulating, Ballam added.

‘Enhance their subject knowledge’

“Our platform enables busy teachers and trainees alike to supplement and enhance their subject knowledge, skills and experience.

“This will facilitate their work with students, helping them to make healthier choices that will benefit their physical and mental health now and in the long term.”

Speaking at the conference, John Reilly, professor of physical activity and public health science at the University of Strathclyde, said lifestyle in childhood and adolescence was important to academic achievement.

“The brain is affected by levels of physical activity, body fatness, and physical fitness. Using new evidence on the effects of lifestyle on the brain might be a way of improving educational attainment in the future,” he said.

Other speakers at the BNF conference included: Professor Ashley Adamson from University of Newcastle on the role and impact of a whole school approach to nutrition; Dr Graham Moore from University of Cardiff on the association between breakfast consumption and education outcomes in primary schools; and Professor Jeanne Goldberg from Tufts University in Massachusetts on the challenge of persuading adolescents to adopt healthier diets.

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