"I CHANGE the way China eats to reduce the single largest source of greenhouse gases – the food we eat."
—Peggy Liu, Chairperson, Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE)
I have a passion for making the world a better place. I believe in the power of one person to inspire collaboration, that the most helpful skill is storytelling, that cultural translators will have the most important roles of the next generation, and that those who can create a better shared future, should.
JUCCCE is an NGO accelerating the greening of China for a healthier world. I bring to JUCCCE expertise is in convening multi-sector collaboration to create societal-scale change in the space where personal and planetary well-being meet. Key JUCCCE milestones include holding the first public dialogues between US & China on clean energy, introducing Smart Grid to China, educating ~1000 Chinese government leaders on how to build sustainable cities, creating the China Dream initiative to reimagine prosperity for sustainable consumerism, launching China's first comprehensive kids' healthy food curriculum.
The 2015 Eat Forum “China: from hunger to obesity in one generation”
Through the EAT Forum ,JUCCCE is combining planetary and personal health curriculum to change the diets of 94 million primary school children across China. And how this curriculum can be localized for countries around the world. "A New Way To Eat" is China's first curriculum for primary school children teaching them how to eat in a way that is good for you and good for the planet: www.juccce.org/eat. How can personal and planetary health be addressed at the same time? The rate at which obesity and diabetes is rising around the world is alarming. Food is our number one source for greenhouse gas emissions.
The goal is to see a significant shift in food preferences, as compared to the earlier generation. To do this, the curriculum teaches kids to enjoy real food and be smarter food consumers. The full set of activities is still being developed and field-tested with real kids, but the pilot has rapidly expanded with the help of channel partners. To change social norms of dietary behavior, food education must reach into every corner of a child’s universe.
Although China is only 15% of the global population of primary-school children, it is hardly alone in this perfect storm of dietary and planetary challenges. I’d like to share some principles I’ve learnt so far on how to engage children on sustainable diets:
1. Turn jargon into “kidspeak.”
To design the new Food Hero Eating Framework, expert opinion was solicited from around the world. The complex jargon of nutrition, exercise, and sustainable-food systems was then translated into kidspeak and made actionable.
“Biodiversity” and “micronutrients” are tucked into a memorable meme of “Eat a Rainbow Every Day.” Planet-friendly adjectives such as “abundant” are added to seafood and “seasonal” to fruits and vegetables. “Don’t be Gross” covers food etiquette and hygiene.
2. Turn lectures into “playducation.”
All our activities are field-tested for fun to engage children’s short-attention spans. Children may jump around, compete in games, sing a song, or get blindfolded. A successful activity is one that kids want to play over and over and over. Of course, there are certificates and lots and lots of stickers.
3. Turn concepts into actionable gems.
Be clear about the behavior changes kids should make. Don’t be shy in scaring kids with slaughterhouse images or rotten teeth, making them feel tricked by advertising or disgusting them with burp sounds. Link these changes to actionable steps kids can apply to everyday eating decisions.
4. Turn low-priority barriers into high-priority backdoors.
In China, where half the country is still worried about getting food on the table, quality food is low priority. But every parent wants their kid to learn English because it could triple their salary potential. We use bilingual flashcards as a backdoor to teach food literacy. Food safety is the number one concern in families, and a backdoor to teaching about sustainable food-supply chains.
China’s health crisis is also a planetary one. Food is the single biggest source (30 percent) of greenhouse-gas emissions responsible for climate change. China’s rising middle class is straining China’s food system with overconsumption, waste, and an increasing demand for meat and dairy.
The good news is that, if children simply eat healthier, they can reduce their personal emissions significantly. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked into UK diets and found that healthier diets of fewer animal products and processed snacks, and more fruit and vegetables, can help reduce an astounding 40 percent of personal emissions.
Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, says that “A New Way to Eat” “is quite unique. No one else is linking food choices to sustainability at the elementary level.”
Chinese adults today were born into a vacuum of food knowledge and lack of food variety and then swamped with Western-style processed convenience foods. This generation of children has a choice to improve personal health and planetary wealth with smarter food choices. By eating better, kids around the world can be food heroes. They can tackle both health threats and climate change with their stomachs — and have fun doing so.
I hope you can adapt our work in China to your work!
Here are ways we can make interact:
Call me from the US +1.818.528.8988
About my work: www.juccce.org/peggyliu
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