School children’s widespread ignorance of food origins and poor eating habits were revealed by a survey of more than 27,500 pupils conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF).
The survey results – launched today (June 3) at the start of the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week – revealed nearly a third (29%) of primary school children thought cheese came from plants and almost one in five (18%) believed fish fingers came from chicken.
One in 10 secondary school children thought tomatoes grew underground. And, over a third (34%) of five to eight year-olds believed pasta comes from animals, as did 17% of eight to 11 year-olds.
In addition to confusion about the origins of food, the survey also revealed poor eating habits. More than a third (32%) of 14–16 year olds missed breakfast on the day of the survey, as did nearly a quarter (24%) of 11–14 year olds and 8% of primary school children.
More positively, over three-quarters (77%) of primary school children and nearly nine out of every 10 (88%) of secondary school pupils knew that people should eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day. But 67% of primary school children and 81% of secondary school pupils reported eating four or fewer portions of fruit and vegetables daily. Two in every five children at secondary school did not think that frozen fruit and vegetables counted towards their five a day.
Roy Ballam, BNF education programme manager, said UK schools needed guidance on food and nutrition education – particularly at a time when childhood obesity levels were soaring.
“Through Healthy Eating Week, we hope to start the process of re-engaging children with the origins of food, nutrition and cooking, so that they grow up with a fuller understanding of how food reaches them and what a healthy diet and lifestyle consists of,” said Ballam.
“The fact that so many schools in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have registered to participate in the week demonstrates their understanding of how important healthy eating is and their commitment to giving children a solid grounding from which to create healthy lives for themselves,” he added.
Over 1.2M children
Health Eating Week – launched today by HRH the Princess Royal – is being supported by more than 3,000 schools. Over 1.2M children will be learning valuable lessons about healthy eating, cooking and where foods come from.
The survey also revealed that 16% of primary school children and one in five secondary school children reported never eating fish. That is despite scientific evidence confirming that consumption of fish, particularly oily fish, was beneficial to health.
National recommendations are that children and adults should consume at least two portions of fish each week.
One in five (21%) primary school children and 18% of secondary school pupils said they had never visited a farm.
A spokesman for the Department for Education in England said: "We want to encourage children to develop a love of food, cooking and healthy eating that will stay with them as they grow up."
Meanwhile, watch Ballam's exclusive video interview with FoodManufacture.co.uk about Healthy Eating Week here .