A Critique of Food Education in Irish Primary Schools: Exploring the Potential to Introduce Key Elements of International Models to the Irish Context
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This study aims to explore the possibility of Irish primary schools introducing key elements of international food education models to the primary school curriculum in a bid to developing positive healthy eating behaviours in Irish primary school pupils and to contribute to lowering childhood obesity figures in Ireland. The objectives are to examine the policies on food education in Irish primary schools; to evaluate the school policies and teachers’ perspectives on food education in Galway city and county and to assess the possibility of drawing on particular international models to enhance Irish food education. Whilst there have been previous studies on international models being introduced into the Irish context, examining the health promoting schools’ initiative and the Food Dudes Healthy Eating programme separately, the researcher has identified a gap in the literature; this study seeks to discover the current position of food education in Irish primary schools’ and to determine if key practices of three international models, the Finnish School Meal System, the Japanese School Lunch Program, and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Project, would benefit food education in Irish primary schools. An interpretivist paradigm was taken for this study. The research choice is mixed methods, taking a broadly qualitative approach with elements of quantitative data. The research strategy used to identify the current position of food education in Irish primary schools was a survey. An online questionnaire and web-based documentary analysis were chosen as the research instruments. The main findings suggest that whilst there has been some success with food education initiatives in Irish primary schools, there are a myriad of challenges to implementing food education successfully, including insufficient time, resources, funding, and experience. What is set out in theory is not followed through in practice. Recommendations going forward include the designation of food education as a specific mandatory subject in the primary school curriculum; a larger scale study to identify the best practices of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Project when developing the Irish primary school food education programme; and increased funding for food education.
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