Food literacy is currently a contested term. Some view it narrowly, with a focus on healthy eating and individual responsibility for understanding how to eat in nourishing ways. In this view, an individual has taught him/herself to navigate the isles of the supermarket, resist promotions of poor quality foods, and make healthy purchases, with the resources and skills to cook from basic ingredients. One is adept at reading labels and filtering out the food industry's deceptive advertising. Translated to the schools, “food literacy education engages children and youth to learn skills and develop habits that will enable them to make healthy food choices throughout their lives” (Sustain Ontario, 2013:2).
Sumner (2012:321) articulates a more appropriate conception of food literacy: “Food literacy is the ability to ‘read the world’ in terms of food, thereby recreating it and remaking ourselves. It involves a full-cycle understanding of food – where it is grown, how it is produced, who benefits and who loses when it is purchased, who can access it (and who can’t) and where it goes when we are finished with it. It includes an appreciation of the cultural significance of food, the capacity to prepare healthy meals and make healthy decisions, and the recognition of the environmental, social, economic, cultural and political implications of those decisions”.
Sumner (2015:185) goes on to elaborate the concept of critical food pedagogies: “critical food pedagogies valorize the knowledge that challenges the industrial food system”. Because food happens everywhere, food pedagogy can literally be everywhere, within but also beyond educational institutions (Sumner, 2008): in the home, through the media, eating out, in community, (Sumner and Wever, 2016) and through festivals and markets.
Environmental Education and Critical Pedagogies of Place
"Place-based pedagogies are needed so that the education of citizens might have some direct bearing on the well-being of the social and ecological places people actually inhabit. Critical pedagogies are needed to challenge the assumptions, practices, and outcomes taken for granted in dominant culture and in conventional education (Gruenewald, 2003:3)
“ecological educators and critical pedagogues must build an educational framework that interrogates the intersection between urbanization, racism, classism, sexism, environmentalism, global economies, and other political themes” (Gruenewald, 2003: 6).
Health promoting schools (HPS)
(adapted from Martorell, 2017)
Promoted by the WHO and generally recognized by Canadian governments, an HPS "is constantly strengthening its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working.” It typically comprises three pillars: (1) Curriculum, teaching and learning; (2) School organisation, ethos and environment; and (3) Partnerships and services. The HPS framework runs counter to individual and behavioral approaches and focuses instead on structural dimensions and dynamics of the school food environment, including food. Partnerships between school actors are essential for success (McIsaac et al., 2012).