Food literacy anyone?

Spring may not be in the air yet, but literacy sure is.

Because it’s RSP season in Canada, I’m being swamped with information about saving for retirement and constantly reminded of the need to be more financially literate. I’m also reading a lot more about media literacy and a wonderful organization called MediaSmarts. And last week, it was all about ‘sexual literacy’, as Ontario announced a new sex ed curriculum for primary and high school students.

I applaud all these efforts to make us all smarter and our kids safer. It’s a complicated world out there, and the more informed we are — with credible information — the better able we are to make good decisions.

But there’s one initiative initiative in particular that I want to shout out. Not just because it’s unique and dove-tails with some really amazing research out of McMaster University earlier this month.

As a PR person, why didn’t I think of food literacy? I wish I’d been asked to design a campaign to raise awareness for the importance of knowing more about what we eat. So congratulations to the Durham School Board for introducing a new procurement strategy for 15 of its schools and introducing local food into school cafeterias. I think it’s a great way of teaching students where the food they eat comes from, helping them to think twice before putting stuff in their mouths, and what environmental and health benefits come from their food choices. The initiative also shows tremendous leadership because it demonstrates a commitment to local farmers and the local economy.

I recently spent a lot of time visiting a family member in hospital. One of the things I noticed was the quality of the food and how difficult it was for my sibling to actually tolerate the food because of the medications she was taking. With this in mind, I was interested to read about Health Care without Harm — a movement that I hope will gain momentum and encourage more local hospitals to prove they too are food literate. Patients deserve tasty, nutritious, chemical-free food in hospital, not only for their physical but also their emotional well-being.

There isn’t much popping out of the ground yet, but come planting season, a whole new crop of kids soon will be smarter about their food choices. It kind of makes a grey day in February less dull, doesn’t it?