New research suggests that some UK children aren’t sure where the food they eat actually comes from. When you were a child, did you think cheese came from a plant, or tomatoes grew underground?
The British Nutrition Foundation has uncovered some surprising sources of confusion when it comes to kids and food. Its research found that almost a third of primary school pupils in the UK think that cheese comes from a plant.
And it’s not just the little ones who are a bit mixed up. Nearly one in 10 secondary school students think that tomatoes grow under the ground. Almost one in five primary school pupils think that fish fingers come from chicken. Out of all the interesting stats in this research, I have a personal favourite: more than a third of five- to eight-year-olds think that pasta comes from animals.
What happens between farm and fork?
Is it the case that these children simply don’t have enough experience with food preparation to join the dots between the farm and their fork? Thinking about my five-year-old nephew, if I asked him where pasta comes from, he’s most likely to say ‘Tesco’ or ‘Mummy’, rather than give me a more accurate response.
For the older children in the survey, their confusion may stem from spending little time around farms to see where their food actually comes from. I grew up in a town that was quite industrialised, but surrounded by agriculture. It was easy enough for me to make the connection between the cows in the field near my school, and the beef in my dad’s shopping trolley.
I’ll admit that there was a grey area in my mind about how exactly the cow became beef, but I was happy not to worry about that too much until I got a bit older. As a five-year-old, however, my only knowledge of pasta was that it came in lots of fun shapes and was covered in orangey sauce. I don’t think I connected that sauce to fresh, red tomatoes for some time.
A hunger to learn about the origins of food
Hopefully the confused younger children from the survey will grow up to have a healthy understanding of the food they eat. They’ll probably joke about their misunderstandings when they get older. It’s the older children I’m more worried about. How do you get to secondary school without realising that tomatoes grow above the ground?
Still, I don’t believe my early misunderstandings about food have had a long-term impact on me or my food habits. I take an active interest in where my food comes from now and I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to the provenance of certain products.
Can you remember wondering ‘where does food come from?’ when you were little? Did you ever get food sources a bit mixed up?