Food education is an essential component that should be included in the school curriculum to teach children about healthy and nutritional food. Through food education, children can make positive and informed food choices that will have long-term effects on their health. Though some aspects of food education are taught in schools during Science as well as Physical and Health Education subjects, more often than not, the concept of vegetarian meals and their health benefits are not discussed. However, there are many children who are vegetarian or vegan due to health, religious or environmental reasons. This project will focus specifically on teaching children and parents the nutritional value of vegetarian meals, and including children in the preparation of healthy and balanced vegetarian school meals. At the same time, it will also focus on raising awareness on healthy vegetarian food and its impact on children’s bodies and minds. Through this project, it is hoped that children will develop a healthy relationship with food.
School meal is critical to student health and well-being, especially for low-income students—and ensures that students have nutrition they need throughout the day to learn. The Ministry of Education Malaysia is very concerned about students’ nutritional consumption and is constantly mobilizing various initiatives to ensure that our children are always filled with nutritious foods. Beginning January 2020, primary school students across Malaysia will have free breakfast meals every morning by the canteen operators. This program is known as ‘Program Sarapan Percuma’ (PSP) and is expected to benefit 2.7 million students across Malaysia. However, the success of the programme could only happen with continuous supply of school meals which are well-designed following nutrition guidelines but yet attractive to school children.
Plant-based food has experienced consistent growth over the last five years, with little sign of change on the horizon. However, doubts still linger for many consumers, and they are skeptical of vegetarian diets as an unbalanced diet, especially children’s meals. Therefore, creating products that meet the demand for supporting children’s health and wellness through functional vegetarian foods can help improve market share. On top of that, market demand also calls for safe, natural and clinically proven ingredients in products that taste great, appealing to family lifestyles and children who among them are picky eaters.
Extensive, ongoing public education events and awareness programmes are important to influence consumer (children & parents) awareness, attitudes, skills, preferences, and behavior around food, diet and nutrition. These actions can all be considered part of the process of “food education”.
Public events (exhibitions and roadshows) that involve school, parents and other partners at public venues played an important role in promoting food education awareness. For example: using parent-teacher conferences as a platform to built-in audiences with nutrition tips and healthy vegetarian meals; newsletter to create a wellness-focused campaign to promote healthy eating and physical activity among families and promote healthy food options and garner enthusiasm through food tasting. It is important to find out effective event kits whereby it can be applied across public events and sustainable to support food education in future.