Food Literacy

What is food literacy?

Food literacy is a set of skills and attributes that help people with the daily preparation of healthy, tasty, affordable meals for them and their families. Food literacy goes beyond nutrients or knowing how to cook and makes connections between where our food comes from, how it is grown and prepared, where we eat it and the people that we share it with.

It includes an understanding of why we make the food choices that we do and the importance of enjoying food and eating. Having a good grasp of these concepts helps us to more easily navigate our complicated food environment to make the best choices.

Why is food literacy important?

Being food literate helps foster a healthy relationship with food and can contribute to health and wellness throughout one’s lifetime.

The food environment has changed dramatically over the past several decades. For example:

  • irregular meal patterns have become very common
  • more meals are eaten away from home
  • there is an abundance of processed and packaged convenience foods available everywhere we go throughout the day, which are:
    • easier to access than healthier choices
    • heavily marketed
    • high in sugar, fat and salt

Because of these changes, children and youth have fewer opportunities to learn and practice food preparation skills leading to their reliance on convenience foods.

Understanding food systems, food marketing, strategies for planning and preparing meals, and how our food choices impact our health and the environment prepares students with the skills and knowledge to make the best choices possible.

How can students (and adults) learn more about food literacy?

Many of the activities suggested for earning BrightBites badges promote food literacy! Check out the Cook It Up, Green Thumb and Zesty Lessons badges for ideas to get you started.

1 Desjardins, E. and Azevedo, E. (2013) “Making Something out of Nothing”: Food Literacy among Youth, Young pregnant women and young parents who are at Risk for Poor Health, a Locally Driven Collaborative Project of Public Health Ontario. Available here.

2 Deer, F., Falkenberg, T., McMillan, B. and Sims, L. (Eds.). (2014). Sustainable well-being: Concepts, issues, and educational practices (pp. 37-55). Winnipeg, MB: ESWB Press. Chapter 3: Food Literacy by Colatruglio, S. and Slater, J. Available here.