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Peter Rabbit gets a jump on World Food Day

World Food Day is one of the United Nations’ (UN) most celebrated calendar events. This year it takes place October 16, still some five months away.

But the UN, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Foundation are already hopping to it: while their appeal is usually to our sense of global humanity, this time, it’s to our kids.

The organizers are approaching this year’s event by enlisting animated movie star Peter Rabbit to try to get youngsters to eat more fruits and vegetables, and waste less food. Peter is featured in a new movie from Sony called Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, and for World Food Day, he’ll be asking kids to be “food heroes.”

So, what do food heroes do?

In a news release from its headquarters in Rome, the FAO says during the pandemic we benefitted from the efforts of those who produced, planted, harvested, fished or transported food. Those are people hailed as “food heroes.”

The UN says kids can join the food-hero ranks by eating plenty of fibre-rich fruits and vegetables, locally sourced and in season where possible, reduce food waste and plant a garden, however small.

FAO calls Peter’s voice a great way to speak to children and their parents about the importance of healthy eating, buying local produce and other sustainable practices that are important to their health and the health of our planet.

Good for the FAO. Anything that reaches young audiences and their parents is essential.

FAO figures show global increases in childhood overweight and obesity are climbing. It blames the phenomenon on several factors, but notes in particular the global shift in diet and lack of exercise.

Young people are eating more energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients, it says.

And in many cases, they’re doing so glued to a screen.

That’s where an active herbivore like Peter Rabbit comes in. He’s quick, agile, and a fruit-and-vegetable poster boy.

I imagine the meat sector will roll its eyeballs – or worse – at this campaign, if it gets too militant against meat consumption. It doesn’t explicitly suggest that kids eat less meat, but I can imagine how some activists might exploit it. More of one thing means less of something else.

But the fruit and vegetable sector doesn’t need to kick dirt on other commodities. Its own image was tarnished when the pandemic took hold, as it tried to figure out how to deal with safe, affordable housing for international workers. But the commodities it continues to produce are beyond reproach.

The fruit and vegetable sector refreshes the entire country, and beyond. That’s especially true this year when so many people were devastated by the pandemic and losing hope. Asparagus shoots started emerging at about the same time COVID-19 numbers were falling.

A recent story by the U.S. farm publication Successful Farming showed that a sample of food sector leaders there cited the fruit and vegetable sector in most of their leading trends, including immune system boosters, adventurous ingredients, wider produce varieties and breakfast salads.     

And we know that the term fresh food has a continually evolving and modern meaning in Ontario, thanks to the booming high-tech greenhouse industry producing more fresh commodities with ever-increasing vigour.

Fruit and vegetables transcend many of cultural barriers. Diversity is an inarguable plus for growers who can respond to culturally driven changes in diets.

So watch for fruit-and-vegetable champion Peter Rabbit to take a big role this summer and fall leading up to World Food Day, and hopefully, a healthier future for kids everywhere.

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