Year 7 and 8 New Zealand Food Survey
Developing the life skills to prepare healthy meals will empower our children to be able to access and enjoy a nutritious diet within their own budgetary, cultural, social and time constraints over a lifetime. The school curriculum is the most appropriate place to teach and develop cooking literacy skills as it reaches all children and provides cross curricular learning. The curriculum states; ‘it is expected all children will have had the opportunity to learn practical cooking skills by the end of year 8’. The current education curriculum provides for this to occur, but does it?
Vegetables.co.nz and the Heart Foundation partnered with the Massey University Dietetic programme, to investigate the current food programmes being run in New Zealand schools. The purpose of this study was to investigate the teaching of food programmes taught to Year 7 and 8 students in New Zealand intermediate and composite schools by developing a survey (suited to multiple forms of delivery) that outlined current practice and identified gaps and challenges. Secondly, based on these findings provide recommendations for strengthening the ‘Health and physical education’ and ‘Food technology’ curricula.
Nationwide, 102 teachers from 101 schools participated in this study. Surveys were completed via 20 face-to-face interviews, 28 telephone interviews and 54 online surveys. The participating schools ranged from decile one to ten. Almost half of the schools (44%) had a decile rating of less than five. The majority of the teachers (83%) surveyed had a ‘technology’ based role.
The study identified a disparity between schools in what is being taught. There was a general move towards a food technology focus, utilising the ‘brief, design, produce and evaluate’ model. Although this shift promotes a better transition into vocational training, it may be at the expense of students learning necessary life skills. It highlighted the need for Year 7 and 8 food teachers to be supported in integrating current curriculum requirements with key aspects of meal planning, preparation and health to ensure this age group has an acceptable level of food literacy.
Several recommendations were made based on the results of the present study. Firstly, there is a need to identify and define ‘best practice’ guidelines for teaching Year 7 and 8 students’ food literacy and skills. ‘Best practice’ guidelines should clarify the overall aim of providing a food programme to this age group. Where possible, guidelines should work within the current food programmes being held for Year 7 and 8 students in New Zealand schools.
Additional recommendations were made for the provision of resources and the professional development of food teachers. Development of resources should consider challenges identified by teachers, including budget and time constraints. They should also incorporate key themes from the ‘Food technology’ and ‘Health and physical education’ curriculums to allow for better integration into the lesson plan. Teachers indicated they would benefit from a platform to promote sharing of knowledge, activities and the ability to compare lesson plans.