Really? 20% of Kids Surveyed Think Pasta Comes from an Animal

Well, that’s apparently true in Australia, anyway.  But would the results of a food literacy survey here in the U.S. be any different?

We’ve talked a lot on The Lunch Tray about the sharp decline in food knowledge and cooking skills in America, a country which ranks last among 20 surveyed nations in terms of time spent in the kitchen.  And who can forget Jamie Oliver’s first season of “Food Revolution,” in which kids in Huntington, West Virginia couldn’t identify common fruits and vegetables by sight?

These issues matter.  When we turn the cooking over entirely to restaurants and the makers of processed foods, we gain convenience at the expense of reasonable portion size and control over ingredients.   The adverse effect on our health, at least as measured by rising obesity rates, is clear.

As I discussed at length in this post a while back, there are no easy fixes for widespread food illiteracy.  While I certainly support the idea of public schools playing a role, I’m not sure how much they can accomplish during this era of No Child Left Behind and budget cuts.  Still, though, it’s worth checking out this new infographic from the Food Revolution demanding compulsory food education.

Guess where 27% of Australian kids think yogurt comes from?


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  1. says

    It’s interesting, for sure, and I won’t discount the relevancy. But I wonder what the average age of those Australian kids was — my kids are 5 and 3, and they have pretty good food literacy all things considered (they can identify kale in the produce aisle, they know that milk and cheese and yogurt come from cows, etc.); but the other night they began asking questions like “Is pasta a vegetable? What’s wheat? If wheat is a kind of grass plant, then isn’t bread a vegetable?” I don’t know that pasta and yogurt are great examples of poor food literacy if the kids are under the age of, say, 8 or 9. Little ones could easily not have any idea what pasta is made of, even if they have a good knowledge of fruits and vegetables; and they could be confusing the messages that yogurt is “healthy” and vegetables are “healthy” to mean that yogurt=vegetables.

  2. Amanda says

    Unless you are training each and every child to become a chef who cares if they know how pasta is made? Should every child also be taught where hockey pucks come from in preparation for careers as pro hockey stars? Let’s make sure schools teach kids the basics of science, math, economics, geography, history. And let’s teach them where and how to look up accurate information & trivia (like where pasta comes from) in case they one day need to know. Come to think of it we ought to be teaching these kids where communicable diseases come from and where unplanned babies come from — that’s information that might just be useful to them before too long, and it is knowledge more likely to rescue their lives and careers than knowing the ethnic heritage of rutabagas.

    • doug says

      “And let’s teach them where and how to look up accurate information & trivia ”

      I couldnt agree more. And I would add teaching them when to look it up. The recent mass hysteria over LFBT would have been greatly ameliorated if people had done a little research instead of allowing their knees to jerk as soon as they read the sensational headlines and tweets. Once the truth got out it died almost as quickly as it started.

      • says

        “Once the truth got out it died almost as quickly as it started.”

        Actually, no it didn’t. As I recall, BPI ended up closing three of their four plants. HISD settled with a vendor who had sent them LFTB in violation of their contractual agreement. And, the meat industry offered to voluntarily label ground beef containing LFTB.

        Sounds to me more like “it died down” when the beef industry caved in to consumer pressure. Which they might have avoided entirely, had they not decided to put LFTB in our ground beef without telling us about it via product labelling.


        • doug says

          Yes, it’s true that about 1000 people, and counting, lost their jobs as a direct result of the the misinformation and ensuing hysteria.

          Please don’t distort the truth. A little of the above mentioned research would have showed you that HISD jumped the gun. There was no contractual violation.

          Don Lee Farms simply did what any good foodservice vendor does. If the customer is dissatisfied with a product for any reason they take it back (in original condition) for full credit. And they continue to be a valued supplier to HISD.

          You & I will never agree on the labeling issue. I will say that “the industry” did not agree to anything. Some companies did. The company that was decimated was labeling it. It was their customers that were not. Those customers would not have been allowed to do so until the USDA changed their policy as a result of requests from the few companies in the spotlight.

          Keep in mind that the decision to lable or not will be a business decision. Whether the demand for it is rational or not will not enter in to the discussion.

          • says

            You are correct – the “label or not” decision is a business decision. Also, decisions have consequences, as BPI found out recently. While BPI may not have been the one selling the LFTB-laden product to the end consumer without labelling it as such, they are part of an industry which convinced the political appointees in the USDA to forego requiring such labelling. As such, they have reaped what they sowed.

            As far as the HISD vs. Don Lee Farms thing goes, that smells mightily of someone putting out a lotta spin. The fact that they had to threaten legal action in the first place was very telling, IMHO.


    • says

      “Unless you are training each and every child to become a chef who cares if they know how pasta is made?”

      They very well might, if it ever becomes necessary for them to prepare their own. There is a reason that residences have a kitchen, and it isn’t just to heat up Spaghetti-Os.


  3. Kristin says

    The biggest reason we don’t cook any more and we don’t teach our children to cook is time. And the reason we dont have time is because of this undeniable thirst for money and “progress” in industrialized countries. I really would like to see US statistics because I think it would be way worse. We have no laws governing maternity leave here (unlike all other countries except Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland so mothers have to pop out their babies then go back to work, not stopping to figure out how to adjust schedules to provide for healthier eating. The main piority is figuring out child care, how to cover when the child is sick, doctor visits, formula or breast milk, pumping, diapers, flu shots, lack of sleep, dealing with post-partum depression, and much much more. The health of the parents goes out the window and if there are other children in the household, they get frozen meals or fast food. Then, as the child grows, no processes have been set up to provide for healthy meals, and the parents haven’t had a break, they haven’t learned how to cook for a family, they are tired, and they continue in their unhealthy habits. When two parents must work, or when there is only 1 parent and that parent must work, the name of the game is survival in this day and age of fast-paced money making. So you can see why poor families are those most affected. Wealthier families often choose to have one parent at home. If we had some help — a breather — upon the birth of a new child, perhaps that would allow families to learn to adjust, figure out schedules, incorporate family meals, and live healthier lives. We always forget that many other countries get 1 year paid off work after a baby is born. And we do not have the lowest tax rate either. It appears that we have the HIGHEST corporate tax rate among several companies . I do have to say that I am not a tax expert by any means, so I could be wrong in my cursory analysis, but if we really do care about “family values” then we will start making things like this more important to us. Until then when politicians speak of their belief in “family values” I will not believe it. The government can keep throwing money at food education for children, but they won’t alleviate the problem until they start helping families from the get-go with better maternity/paternity leave policies.

  4. Gretchen says

    Well, my 9 year old claims that since pasta is made with wheat, it should count as the required “thing that grew in the ground” which I insist must be part of each meal. Yes, she is an advocate for the idea that pasta = vegetable. But in her case I’d say it’s not ignorance so much as aggressive advocacy skills!

  5. Maggie says

    Kristin, I was going to advocate for the return to family farming, with adults working on the farm (and children helping as able). Even if the farm income is from growing/producing crops other than foods for direct sale to others, there would be space to grow garden crops for the family as well as livestock for meat. There would be time to can & freeze when garden crops are in season, as well as to cook seasonally from scratch for every meal…but all that is pretty much a full time job.

    Of course, I’m pretty sure I’m looking at this as it existed in the past (and I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t all a bed of roses even then!) and that land prices, farm policies and such would make this difficult or impossible now.

    • doug says

      I’m thinking that if Kristen were on a family farm she probably wouldn’t get her year off for maternity leave.

      • Kristin says

        Actually, there is a movement going on whereby educated people are quitting their jobs and living off the land, their own resources, neighbors, community, and getting by on very little money AND they are happy. I didn’t respond for a while becasue I couldn’t find the book I read on it (or I keep forgetting to look). It is quite inspiring. I will try to remember to look again. Doug — I really don’t understand what point you are trying to make.

        • Maggie says

          I wasn’t disagreeing with Kristin’s thoughts, but only giving my idea of my idea of a utopian possibility.

          A lot of education about food & cooking would simply be common knowledge, not something that needed to be formally taught (of course, based on where you were living and what you raised/grew). Hopefully, with more people back on farms, even the “town kids” would know “farm kids” and have some knowledge as well.

          • Kristin says

            Actually, lots of people are farming in the city now too! “Urban homesteading.” it’s extremely educational! Imagine if that really caught on. It even makes it possible for more parents to stay home If they choose. I’m not too hopeful, but I can dream.

        • Uly says

          There’s always been a “movement” for people going to “live off the land” from the cities, for about as long as living in cities has been viable. Most of them don’t succeed because they don’t know what they’re doing.

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