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Young peoples’ voice on organic food and health in schools

Mikkelsen, Bent Egberg (2009) Young peoples’ voice on organic food and health in schools. Speech at: Organic food, health and sustainable development in schools, Helsinki, Finland, 21.-22.1.2009.

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It is important that children are provided with a solid foundation for making sound decisions in relation to health and that health aspects be incorporated into their daily life. In this connection, public schools are important health promoting platforms due to their potential for encouraging interest, knowledge and learning about health related issues. The central idea for the study has been to address pupil perceptions and not merely to emphasise a narrow professional approach. In order for health initiatives, offered in connection with public schools, i.e. initiatives aimed at the available
food selection and class room teaching, to impact children's day-to-day health, the basic assumption has been that pupils must see the initiatives as relevant. Therefore it is important that these initiatives address the children's interests and values in connection with ecology and health. Thus children can be engaged as stakeholders in a way that encourages healthy behaviour and delegates shared responsibility for their own individual health. Devising and implementing different health promotion efforts often originate in a professional settings and i.e. decision makers such as health professionals, teachers and civil servants approach the tasks according to their professional background and specific agendas. However, in an active social field such as a school, the narrow administrative outlook collides with a completely different and disorganized everyday outlook. It may be assumed that children view issues such
as ecology and health entirely dependent on their individual values and attitudes. This collides with traditional administrative logic. An administrative outlook expects strategies and interventions to be governed by rational motives and evidence. Public administrative bodies are expected to be able to provide objective and proven facts that justify strategies and interventions based on well-established expertise within a well defined technical or scientific domain. Such areas of domain expertise are created and justified on the grounds of the traditional scientific disciplines characterized by stable well defined rules determining which theories and methodologies are accepted as making sense. These domains of expertise are furthermore characterized by particular preferences for paradigms from either the natural or social sciences. Such paradigms are seldom compatible with the reality of the everyday life of pupils where concepts and meaning intermingle. The main purpose of the study has been to shed light on primary and lower secondary pupils' everyday experience with ecology and health in connection with the public organic school food programmes in the municipality of Copenhagen. Moreover the aim has been to investigate to which degree the pupils experience a connection between the organic food program and the underlying organic supply chain and classroom initiatives in subjects related to ecology and health. In February 2008, we approached a public school which proved willing to participate in our study. Subsequently, over a four week period, we designed an interview guide used to conduct the focus group interviews which were then transcribed. The findings from the focus group interviews show a broad interest in subjects relating to ecology, organic foods and health. A few of the findings will be reported here. The full analysis will be made available as an iPOPY working report. The results show that the ecological supply chain behind the KØSS food programme does not seem to have triggered greater involvement on the part of the interviewed pupils regarding the organic agenda. Respondents said that they had felt them selves being involved in the decision making process concerning the school's organic food programme. This was the case for pupils from both the 5th and 7th grades. Most of the 5th grade pupils knew why the food sold in the school food stall was organic and indicated that it was because their school was part of the KØSS food programme because the school is located in Copenhagen. A single pupil knew about the link between the initiatives ties to another municipal campaign:”Ecology is nothing but pure water”. The 7th graders similarly agreed that school food is organice due to the fact that the school participates in the KØSS programme. When asked who they thought had made the decision to introduce organic food in schools, the Copenhagen municipality, City Hall and the dairy company, Arla, were mentioned. Likewise, several pupils believed that the school had been part of the decision making process. The pupils mentioned a number of different courses where the two subjects, ecology and health, had been part of what they were taught. Nevertheless, it was not clear to greater part of the pupils whether these subjects were a regular part of the course or not. They pupils gave different indications of when they had been taught on ecology and health. And they mentioned that the subjects of ecology and health have been introduced in home economics, Danish, math, nature and science, social science and geography.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Speech
Subjects:"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > Denmark
Research affiliation: Denmark > DTU - Technical University of Denmark
Deposited By: He, Mrs Chen
ID Code:15769
Deposited On:11 Jun 2009
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:39
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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