Over the past 30 years, the way we shop, cook and eat means that the food we consume today is fundamentally different. Multiple generations haven’t learnt to cook, and with us working longer hours and leading more demanding lives, we are understandably turning to more convenience and fast foods, which are full of fat, salt and sugar, and are not good for us on a regular basis.
Diet plays a crucial role in the healthy development and prevention of ill health in children, and the food they eat is not only essential for physical development; it fuels their learning ability and can affect how well they concentrate at school. In 2009, the States business plan set a goal of reducing obesity rates from 30% to below 10% by 2017, yet according to a report issued by the States of Jersey in February 2017, 20% of children in Reception are overweight and this figure rises to 33% of children in Year 6.
Yet there are so many more reasons why this is happening.
Across the world we are eating more high energy foods, and consuming less of our five a day. Our fruits and vegetables are often grown in poor quality soil, flown thousands of miles and are harvested too early to allow the nutritional value to be optimal. Up until recently, there was no legislation on food advertising, meaning food manufacturers could promote unhealthy foods and make dubious nutritional claims. Meals are rarely eaten at a table these days, allowing the opportunity to learn social skills and cement long term healthy eating habits.
In Jersey, we have the highest proportion of working mothers in the Western world (80% compared to 64% in the UK), a high cost of living, poor accommodation and despite the relaxed environment of Island life, a large number of people are working long and stressful hours, often for minimum wage.
So it’s no surprise when you look at the 2017 Opinion and Lifestyle Survey, that we see statistics like –
10% of households have gone without fresh fruit or vegetables in the last 12 months.
8% of households go without a cooked main meal each day.
69% of people had eaten less than five portions of fruit and vegetables in the last 24 hours.
15% of adults don’t know what to cook to make a healthy meal.
But we can change this. In Jersey, across all public and third sectors, there is some incredible work happening. The Food and Nutrition Strategy and the Children’s Plan puts children’s health as a top priority, and a strategic aim of reducing diet related disease in Jersey has been set. But they can’t do this alone, which is why the work of Caring Cooks is so important.
We believe the health of our Island is everyone’s business.