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We, food, our planet. An educational program for teachers
The food system is a good example of global connections. Healthy and sustainable diets effectively support progress of health, agriculture, sustainable development and help fighting inequality and poverty. Ultimately, they pave the way to reach all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. The world is increasingly interconnected and new generations need to understand the political, economic, social and cultural connections of local, national and global issues. Hence, sharing citizenship values, attitudes and behaviours supporting sustainable development in the food system is part of the solution and educating the younger to be global citizens a priority. The number food education modules available at all levels in the Italian schools today is growing. However, most of them are focused on the nutritional side only and modules on food system are relatively sparse. New comprehensive modules are strongly needed and, since sustainable food initiatives are gaining attraction, the time is right to introduce them in the system. The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition website provides a vast selection of free resources that teachers could use to create their lessons. However, it was hypothesised that dedicated materials would have better met teachers’ needs and then the educational project “We, food, our Planet” was born. This project is part of a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research and it has specifically designed to educate global citizenship and provide incentives for innovative ways of teaching food sustainability along with the Sustainable Development Goals. It aims at providing teachers and students with a better understanding of the environmental, economic, social and cultural dynamics of the food systems and their impacts on the Agenda 2030. The methodology is hybrid since it mainly relays on long-distance learning to train and update teachers, but it also includes regular meeting during the school year, in order to help teachers to be familiar with the complexity of the topic and the related tools. The project consists of a set of modules, dedicated to different food-related themes and each module provides the necessary base of knowledge and examples to be transferred in the school context, according to different learning needs. The educational project is supported by a dedicated online free platform, where teachers can find and acquire materials and follow specific tutorials, in two languages (Italian and English). All training materials have a strong scientific base and are regularly updated. Since its launch in May 2018, 2353 Italian teachers joined the program, equivalent to 4706 classes and 117650 students. Teachers are equally distributed among primary, middle and high schools. Feedback from teachers was positive and suggested a broad range of further topics and methodologies to be implemented. These results, including suggestions for improvements, provide evidence for a virtuous loop being started and remark that effective educational resources should be interactive products rather than top-down ones.