From Canteens to a World Manifesto

23 Oct 2010

A wide range of educators – from youth workers in Brazil to primary schools teachers in Romania – brought their diverse experiences to the table in two education-focused sessions at Terra Madre. Delegates had the opportunity to think about education from the level of everyday projects, at morning session entitled “European Schools for Healthy Eating”, to projects an international level at the afternoon session, “A Slow Food approach to education: a theoretical manifesto and practical guide”.

Representatives from the 12 projects participating in the European Schools for Healthy Food, funded by the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), gathered from 10 different countries and presented their projects this morning. Slow Food education coordinator Mariagiulia Mariani said the aim was to exchange ideas, make connections with other attendees and to provide examples of best practice. “Our aim is to improve the eating habits of children and to encourage them to eat together and enjoy the experience so that eventually this becomes part of everyday life”, she continued “there are many new faces here not just from European schools and we hope that you leave with inspiration, food for thought and networks”.

After one year the project has gathered momentum and the representatives from the European Schools for Healthy Food had much to tell about their own campaigns. Recurring themes confirmed the importance of getting children involved with food through sensory experiences, including workshops, visits to producers and farms, eating with friends and family; working with a wider network of farmers, producers and the community; starting with small achievable goals; peer education; and expanding children’s knowledge of healthy eating and quality food.

Bringing some solid data to the table, Lilia Smelkova from Kings College London and Kristen Kiesel from Sacromento State University presented their research into the use of sensory education in schools in Belarus in the project “Education and Food Consumption: Evidence from a field experiment in Belarus”. By collecting data from schools who introduced hands-on food education and taste workshops and those who did not, they compared the differences and found that the children from schools who undertook sensory activities had a significant change in their diet and stopped eating junk food due to their new appreciation of taste and their increased awareness of the adverse health effects.

Moving from the concrete examples of how Slow Food principles manifest in European school projects, the afternoon session was a working meeting, which offered international delegates who work in education the opportunity to share in the development of Slow Food’s draft education manifesto and best practice guide. The manifesto, which will be presented on Terra Madre Day, outlines the core principles which should guide educational activities. Cristina Bertezzoni, from the University of Brescia who guided the creation of the manifesto presented it and then asked delegates to contribute to its further development, saying, “We have a document and need to find a way to go forward with it; we are here today to do this.”

Some of the guiding principles of the manifesto so far are: providing conviviality and pleasure in the learning environment; learning through hands on experiences; respecting the different learning paces of individuals; valuing diversity; approaching the full complexity of themes and favoring a multidisciplinary approach; facilitating exchange among local networks, strengthening a sense of community; and develops self awareness, giving people a better understanding of their own role and actions.

Speaking first was a youth educator from Brazil who brought attention to the fact that many in Brazil don’t even have access to education and this must be taken into account. Another delegate from Brazil highlighted the importance of educating the educators, to which Bertezzoni added that training means to search and to find a deeper meaning of what you are doing and then sharing this. “It is a constant process” she said “and we should never think that we have the answers.

Referring to the development of the best practice guide, a guide to lay down the methodology needed to run education projects, Cristina Bertezzoni said “we don’t want to do it alone but we want to have an international debate about this”. Through an online forum starting in December, which Cristina Bertezzoni opened to all attending the session, whether previously involved or not, the international group will add a methodological point to add to the document.

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