At the cusp of a transformation
The first steps in vocational nutrition education in Finland were taken at the end of the 19th century. At that time, the focus was on preventing deficiency diseases and caring for the poor. After the Second World War, the emphasis on nutrition education shifted to the prevention of diseases of affluence.
"These days, we think that in addition to promoting healthy choices, the purpose of food education is also to increase sustainable development and knowledge of food cultures,” says Talvia.
We are at the cusp of a transformation, and there have already been encouraging developments. Nothing changes overnight, but the goal is to develop food education in order to change our relationship with food and eating to a positive one. The goal is also that we learn to appreciate a wide variety of foods and to listen to the messages about eating that our body sends. We should also make sure to eat regular meals.
“Studies have shown that such an approach can have significance to public health by supporting weight management and helping prevent eating disorders," says Leila Karhunen, University Lecturer in Clinical Nutritional Science.
According to her, rethinking food choices and eating behaviour to be more accepting and appreciative can help achieve these goals.
No one way of looking at food
Naturally, the intention is not to discard nutritional recommendations entirely but rather to challenge the way we think about food in terms of black and white and “right” or “wrong” eating. We need to understand that a person’s diet is the sum of many parts based on different aspects of their life.
"In order to define food education, we must first determine what is meant by education and pedagogy. In addition, we need to think about where and how food education takes place and how we perceive our socio-cultural environment, values and norms and material world,” Talvia lists.
For this reason, the aim has been for representation in the research group’s projects to be as multidisciplinary as possible. New disciplines that have been brought on board include psychology and psychotherapy.
A multidisciplinary approach is also beneficial in that it makes it possible to see in concrete terms how many different approaches there are to food education and its concepts. The different perspectives of pedagogical science, psychology, nutrition science, nutrition therapy, food economics, community education and home economics both enrich one another and occasionally clash.
“Sometimes, we notice that we’ve had a long discussion about a concept only to realise that we’re talking about the exact same thing using different terminology. In the end, however, we all share the same goal: promoting all aspects of wellbeing,” says Karhunen.