Australian parents concerned about children’s food choices

Thursday, March 10, 2016

New research shows nearly half of Australian parents are concerned their child is unable to make healthy food choices, and 3 in 5 are concerned that their child prefers processed food.

The survey, conducted by Medibank and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, confirms the need for more to be done to improve the knowledge and confidence among Australian children to grow and cook fresh and healthy food.

“With one in four Australian children obese or overweight, it’s vital that we teach our children to eat well and to be active,” Medibank Chief Medical Officer, Dr Linda Swan, said. “This survey shows that we still have a long way to go to support our children to make healthy food choices for their future.”

More than 1000 Australian primary school children (aged 5 to 12) and their parents participated in the survey, which included questions based on what’s taught through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. The survey found:

  • Only 22% of children correctly answered all questions about common fresh food sources. One in four didn’t know that butter comes from cow’s milk and not all children knew that apples and bananas are grown on trees; that potatoes are grown underground; or that tomatoes are grown on vines.
  • 24% of primary school aged children do not eat dinner around the table with their family regularly (i.e. 2-4 days per week, or less often). Children who eat dinner around the table with their family at least once a week have better knowledge about where food comes from and how it is grown.
  • Three in five parents don’t believe their child would know how to bake a potato, and more than two in five don’t believe their child could boil an egg. Boys are less likely to know how to cook rice on the stove, how to bake a potato, or how to boil an egg.

The survey also revealed that children who knew more about how food is grown and where food comes from were more likely to know how to boil an egg, bake a potato, and cook rice on the stove; and children who are involved in helping to grow fruits and vegetables, and assist with grocery shopping and preparing meals at home, knew more about where food comes from and how it is grown.

The survey found:

  • Only 50% of children are involved in growing fruit and vegetables at home.
  • A third of children always or often help their parents with the grocery shopping.
  • Children who help their parents with grocery shopping, no matter how infrequently, are more likely to know where food comes from and how it’s grown, compared to those who never help with the shopping. Around 85% of primary schoolers help prepare meals at home, with half helping at least once a week, and girls are more likely to help prepare meals at home at least once a week.

Medibank has supported the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation since 2012, as part of its commitment to growing healthy kids.

“Medibank is proud to support and actively work with the Foundation and this program to help Australian children learn and adopt lifelong healthy habits,” Dr Swan said.

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