Teenage nutrition a major challenge, hears teachers’ conference

Persuading teenagers to eat a balanced diet and educating them on where their food comes from is a major challenge for our society. They were the key messages at a conference of teachers from all over Wales held in Cardiff on Saturday, 19 November.

The conference, co-organised by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and Meat and Education, heard from a number of expert speakers on food provenance and the importance of a balanced diet.

Roy Ballam, Managing Director of the British Nutrition Foundation, told the teachers present that a third of British teenagers were overweight or obese. Rather than being a simple matter of eating less, said Mr. Ballam, the issue was a lack of balance and variety in their diet. He also reported that many teenagers – particularly girls – had a very low intake of vitamins and minerals such as iron and selenium.

The new GCSE in Food and Nutrition, launched this year by the Welsh Joint Education Committee, offered a chance to get to grips with the issue, according to another speaker at the conference, HCC’s Consumer Executive Elwen Roberts.

“Teachers can play a role in ensuring that teenagers receive the correct information about a balanced diet,” said Elwen. “The new GCSE in Food and Nutrition, which replaces some of the old qualifications, is a positive step as it’s a holistic approach to the issue.”

Elwen added, “HCC, along with Meat and Education, have developed a range of learning resources to help teachers to deliver nutritional education in the new GCSE and across the curriculum. They explain how meat can be an important source of iron, zinc and many vitamins, as part of a balanced diet.”

Also featuring at the Cardiff conference was Brecon butcher Steve Morgan, who gave a demonstration of how to prepare economical cuts of meat to use in the classroom, and HCC’s Head of Operations Prys Morgan, who gave a presentation on food provenance.

“Traceability is another key element that students learn about in the new Food and Nutrition GCSE,” said Prys, “and it is also more and more important to consumers. Schemes such as PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), of which Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef are part, give confidence to consumers about the origin and quality of their food.”

“I was delighted to see so many teachers from all over Wales at the conference,” added Prys. “HCC will continue to work hand-in-hand with the education sector to reinforce positive messages about the important role that red meat can play within a balanced diet.”