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Media Literacy & Food Marketing - Lesson Plans
Many packaged food products found in supermarkets today are specifically designed to appeal to children. They range from dinosaur-shaped processed cheese, fruit gushers, and yogurt tubes to Dino-egg “hatching” oatmeal. They can sell the story of the product and highlight key attributes, but they don’t necessarily reflect the overall nutritional value. For this you need to examine the Nutrition Facts Table and ingredient list of each product. Charlene Elliott, PhD, Canada Research Chair, Food Marketing, Policy and Children’s Health, Meaghan Brierley PhD and their team at the University of Calgary have introduced a series of lesson plans, fact sheets and e-book to help parents, guardians and educators understand how children view and interpret packaged foods. These materials are part of the media literacy initiative for the Alberta school curriculum. They were based on focus groups and surveys with over 600 children, attending grades one thru nine. This project was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS). Special thank you to the Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH).
Food & Beverage Label Information - Challenging to Understand
Next to general research on the internet, Canadians source nutrition information from food and beverage labels. This includes front of package labelling, health claims and the Nutrition Facts Table. However for many people information is challenging to understand.
Lana Vanderlee, PhD, School of Public Health & Health Systems, University of Waterloo in her presentation at the Nutrition Resource Centre’s, Unpacking Nutrition Forum , indicated that the impact of policy on health disparities is particularly important. We need to consider lower literacy groups.
Canadians report that The Nutrition Facts Table is helpful, however interpretation requires numeracy, literacy and math skills, beyond many peoples interest or abilities. Canadians prefer front of pack symbols that are directive in nature and simple to understand. Examples include a warning system, health star rating or traffic light labelling that indicates the intake amount of sugar, sodium and saturated fats.
Creating Healthier Food Environments in Canada - Current Policies and Priority Actions
Policy action is needed from governments to shift the food environment towards one that can promote healthy diets. This is the overall finding from more than 70 non- government experts from 44 universities and non-government and professional organizations across Canada.
The Food EPI Canada study lead by Dr. Lana Vanderlee and Dr. Mary L’Abbe at the University of Toronto used the Food Environment Policy Index tool developed by the International Network for Food & Obesity to examine the state of food environment policy in Canada compared to internationally established good practices.
Nutrition related behaviours are now the greatest contributor to mortality in Canada. Changes, both large and incremental are necessary to help Canadians eat healthy. Read here.