Putting Food Back into the Curriculum: Key Informants’ Perspectives on Implementing a Mandatory Food Literacy Component in Ontario Secondary School Curriculum
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Introduction: The food environment has changed over the last few decades with a sharp rise in individuals eating outside of the home and the availability of packaged and ultra-processed products. These types of foods are desirable because they are convenient and also very palatable (Monteiro, et al., 2013; Slater, 2017). They are also branded and marketed intensely. As a consequence of this, we tend to over-consume them (Slater, 2017). Not surprisingly, young people’s diets have been adversely affected and many scholars have noted a “de-skilling” trend, such that young people’s food and cooking skills have deteriorated (Scrinis, 2007; Slater, 2017). However, the physical health, well-being, and food skills of adolescents can be positively impacted by food literacy, defined as the scaffolding that empowers individuals, communities, and nations through knowledge and skills that protect diet quality (Vidgen & Gallegos, 2014). Purpose: This study sought to understand key informants’ perspectives on food literacy goals and objectives, as well as the process by which food literacy might become a mandated component of Ontario secondary school curriculum. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 key informants from three groups of Ontario-based participant pools: experts in the field of food literacy; experts in the curriculum process; and current high school teachers. Results: Thematic analysis was utilized to analyze participant transcripts. The goals and learning objectives of a food literacy component as well as five major themes were identified that pertain to the research questions. These themes are: need for a common definition of food literacy; changing perceptions of food literacy; need for collaboration; need for resources; and lobbying the government. Discussion: Participants had similar responses to most questions. There are several strategies food literacy advocates must consider to overcome the barriers preventing a mandatory food literacy component in Ontario secondary school curriculum. These strategies include utilizing collaborative work efforts in order to come to an agreed upon definition of food literacy and the use of advocacy strategies to change perceptions and lobby the government.