If you’ve ever had the shocking experience of a having a cauliflower waved at you at a checkout while being asked ‘is this a cabbage?’ you’ll know that Jamie Oliver has a point. There’s a problem with food literacy. Surfing the slow food site, I came across his presentation to TED in which he describes a parallel situation in the US. He’s right: people are pretty ignorant and knowledge is power to make the right choices.
I don’t think it’s anything like the full story though. Teaching kids about food will help, but if education was the whole story there would be no middle aged smokers. There’s a bunch of research out there that points to our culture being ‘obesogenic’; that is, suited to the encouragement of obesity. Major factors include, bad food on sale (education may help with this, but if the offer from retailers makes it hard to make good choices… ), sedantry lifestyles in seated jobs which are reached in vehicles, geographies of food which mean that there are food ‘deserts’ where there’s no healthy food retailers in the area and shopping choice can only be achieved by car. Other issues include the relationship between poor food and mental health (which is of course not unrelated to activity), unhelpful interventions for those who are trying to change eating habits and the mixed images we’re getting from each other about appropriate body shape.
We’re ignorant. We’re surrounded by food that is bad for us. We don’t move enough. So, there’re also a few other things we might consider, like taxing saturated fat and beefing up council’s powers in considering the health impact of planning permissions for new build and change of use.