Understanding food literacy the goal of initiative at Durham College’s Oshawa campus

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Published August 18, 2023 at 9:34 am

Helping college students understand the importance of nutrition and healthy food choices is the focus of an initiative Durham College and its partners in food education are bringing to the Oshawa campus.

The school’s Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) and the Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture have teamed up for Food IQ: Growing Minds, Growing Plates, to promote food literacy and fight food insecurity.

The initiative seeks to educate Durham College students on the importance of accessible, affordable healthy food and preparing nutritious meals.

One of the key parts of the plan is to bring the weekly farmer’s market held at the Whitby campus – a joint venture of the school’s Faculty of Hospitality and Horticulture Science and the Galen Weston Centre for Food – to Oshawa.

Campus Health and Wellness Centre staff will be at the Tuesday markets to promote food literacy activities, mindful eating and healthy habits, while also ensuring that students know about resources that can help them, like financial support and the Durham College Student Association Food Bank.

Brenna Bizley, partnership manager for the Barrett Centre, believes that improving food literacy in youth is critical.

“We need to teach students that purchasing fresh fruit or vegetables provides more of a nutritional benefit than spending that same amount of money on processed food that might be more familiar to them,” she said. “Hopefully that will build some awareness and momentum around healthy eating and making healthy choices.”

The student association is providing coupons to help all students benefit from the market and unsold produce will be donated to the school’s Food Bank and used in other programming, including cooking classes and as snacks for students.

“Durham Region as a whole is having food insecurity and food literacy issues. Some individuals struggle with making economical food choices while keeping nutritional value in mind due to the increased cost of living,” said CHWC Director Jennifer Elliott, noting that such issues are especially prevalent among young students living on their own for the first time.

Other programming will be added for the fall semester, including Munchie Mondays, which will teach students how to prepare budget conscious snacks and Mindful Farm Fridays, which invites students to join wellness coaches at the Whitby campus for mindfulness practice.

An eating disorders psychotherapist will also provide education and counseling on important topics like body dysmorphia.

Plans for more programs and activities are in the works, like budget planning and grocery shopping tips.

Elliot believes food literacy is important for everyone, but especially for the younger generation.

“Developing food literacy skills, such as understanding nutrition, cooking, and meal planning, can lead to healthier eating habits. This, in turn, promotes better physical and mental health among students,” she said. “Our hope is that this can instill lifelong habits of responsible and conscious eating. Students are more likely to carry forward the knowledge and values they acquire during their college years, making a positive impact on their own lives and the lives of others.”

With files from Durham College

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