Food Education for Health and Sustainability: A unique opportunity to align Food Education with health and sustainability goals in primary Education

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sch of Education and Lifelong Learning


Existing research
Schools are ideally placed to promote healthy and sustainable eating habits, with Dillon et al.further arguing that FE is a "prerequisite" for a science curriculum which promotes a sustainable future. FE activities such as growing and cooking have been found to enhance children's vegetable and fruit consumption. This finding is important as evidence suggests that the consumption of a mainly plant-based diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes can have a significant impact in reversing climate change - which remains a top priority for the ESRC (2017).

Research recommends that FE should involve collaboration between education, industry and parents. Children in schools with strong farm links have been found to eat more fruit and vegetables. The need for future research to explore the potential of school meals to promote healthy and sustainable food behaviour has also been highlighted. In addition, the role of parents in endorsing a healthier lifestyle has been pinpointed as key in tackling childhood obesity. Evidence stresses the importance of involving the whole school community, industry and external experts in identifying ways to integrate food sustainability into the curriculum.

Based on this literature, this study aims to investigate current FE practice in a primary school setting, enact a Food Education for Health and Sustainability (FEHS) partnership between the school, a catering company, a local farm, parents, educational experts and the researcher, and reflect on its impact in instilling a more sustainable and healthier food culture.

Main Question
To what extent can a FEHS partnership develop a healthy and sustainable food culture in a primary education setting? To answer the overarching question, I will address the following questions within one primary school setting in the UK.

a) What contribution does current FE practice make to a healthy and sustainable diet?
b) What could an effective FEHS partnership look like in practice?
c) How can the school, local catering company, parents, farm and educational organisations collaborate to promote healthy and sustainable diet?
d) What is the impact of a new FEHS partnership on children's eating habits?

A participatory action research (PAR) is planned for its reputation in effecting real-world social change and the cyclical nature of "fact-finding, action, reflection, leading to further inquiry then action for change". PAR improves practice, and offers a collective, and self-reflective alternative to knowledge development. Without the active engagement of stakeholders, it will be impossible to achieve the aim of study. Secondly the participatory nature of the research will increase the commitment of all stakeholders, and will mean that the change is more likely to endure beyond the study.

The researcher identified St Leonard's Primary School in Exeter for the case study because:
- The school is city-based;
- Availability of outdoor space for kitchen garden and pupil cooking facilities;
- Willingness to collaborate from catering company;
- An active Parents and Teachers Association (PTA).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2268909 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2022 Fatma Sabet