Diversity in food education is a resource – Together we can achieve the most!

The webinar ‘Food education as multiprofessional collaboration in schools, homes and organizations’ was held on Wednesday 10th of February at Hanasaari. The event provided us an opportunity to hear high-level expertpresentations and discussion about implementing food education across countries and contexts. Almost 300 participants had registered for the event from all around the world, such as from Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Australia and Great Britain.

Research-based and practical perspectives built a general view and understanding about the wide field of food education. The presentations included examples of concrete models and applications, which have been developed and tested in practice-based work. We also heard about challenges, such as time limits that restrict implementation, tight financial resources, as well as tensions that might arise between perspectives of different actors. These tensions can prevent multiprofessional collaboration. However, they can also be seen as stepping stones for changing existing ways of doing, when we find the courage to re-define prevailing practices together. As the experienced speakers of the webinar brought out, food education is an opportunity to promote active citizenship and a sustainable way of life. Food choice is not only about nutrition, but first and foremost a learning process.

Leaning on the definition of food sense (Janhonen et al., 2018), the above referred understanding, applying and re-defining illustrate the gradually increasing depth and complexity of a food related learning process. The concept has been previously used, for example, in researching non-formal learning and free time activities of youth (Kauppinen, 2018) and in investigating informal learning in home cooking (Janhonen et al., 2018). In the ongoing FOODSENSE research project (2020–2022) the concept is tested and developed as a tool for food education implementation in schools. The results of the project will build a better understanding of how subject teaching and school mealtimes can support the promotion of food sense, and how teachers can integrate the evaluation of food sense as the result of students’ learning processes and as a part of their teaching. In this way, the FOODSENSE project is a partner in developing food education in schools as a pedagogical activity.

We do not have only one definition of the characteristics, contents or aims of food education, and this view was strengthened also through the presentations and discussions in the webinar on Wednesday 10th of February. Our enthusiastic group of professionals and actors consists of representatives of different fields, as well as of researchers whose work is based on different emphases and scientific paradigms. We express our roles in implementing food education through different kinds of words and concepts, and the quality or impact of our work is not always measured through the same criteria. Among this diversity, it is important that we constantly strive towards clearer formulations of the value-base of food education, and that we aim purposefully towards higher recognition of the overlapping areas that connect us – even when implementing food education separately as a part of our differing work profiles. An open mind helps in recognising partners for developing food education together. Discussions that focus on supporting learning will advance a common view of aims and ways of acting. The strengths of different actors and groups of professionals, together with multidisciplinary food education research, support the comprehensive effectiveness of food education.

Formal education and teaching are always connected with commonly agreed upon values, which are defined, for example, in curriculums. An even clearer and outspoken value-base for food education and teaching is a prerequisite for defining common aims for implementation. Working continuously to support the wellbeing of children, young people and also other age groups is an example of an ambition that connects different food education actors. With the help of our strong network, we can function to one another as inspiration and resource for implementation. Food education is connected in an all-encompassing way to people’s everyday life, as well as a multitude of different food and learning environments. A deeper understanding of informal, non-formal and formal forms of food education can help us in the future to better perceive the work of different actors as a part of the wide entity of our field.

The central themes of the FOODSENSE project – collaboration, participation and co-creation – were traversed the program in the event on Wednesday 10th of February. These themes are in line with food education research, both in Finland and internationally. The aim of the webinar was to create a common vision for developing multiprofessional know-how in implementing food education across contexts. The conclusion of the webinar was that we need a common aim and that together we can achieve the most!

Our sincere thanks for taking part in the webinar, and joy and inspiration to food education implementation to you all!

Kristiina Janhonen (University of Helsinki / FOODSENSE – research project, Academy of Finland , Bettina Lindfors (ELO-Foundation), Marjaana Manninen (Finnish National Agency for Education).

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The webinar: Food education as multiprofessional collaboration in schools, homes and organisations was organised by the University of Helsinki and ELO-foundation/ Finnish School Meal Network together with Hanasaari cultural centre for Sweden and Finland. The Webinar was implemented as a part of the ‘Promoting food sense through school meals (FOODSENSE, 2020-2022) research project funded by the Academy of Finland. The webinar is a part of the programme for Finnish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2021.

Publications referred in the text:

  • Kauppinen, E. (2018). Moniääninen ruokaympäristö: ruokakasvatuksen mahdollisuudet nuorisotaloilla (Multi-voiced Foodscape – The Possibilities of Food Education in Youth Centres). Helsingin yliopisto, Kasvatustieteellinen tiedekunta. Väitöskirja (monografia).
  • Janhonen, K., Torkkeli, K. & Mäkelä, J. (2018). Informal learning and food sense in home cooking, Appetite, 130, 1, 190–198.

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