Improving adolescents' cooking skills and food literacy in Portugal: a youth-led policy idea as a lifelong health-promoting strategy. The CO-Create European Project
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Centre for Studies and Research in Social Dynamics and Health (CEIDSS), Portugal
National Institute of Health Dr Ricardo Jorge, Portugal
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1583
Background/Objective: Although young people are an important target group for health policies, there are few examples of adolescents themselves being included as active agents in formulating such policies. The engagement of adolescents in the EU CO-CREATE (CC) project was based on Youth-led Participatory Action Research with strong focus on the development of their own Policy ideas. We present one of the policy ideas developed by the adolescents and its relevance within the Portuguese context. Methods: Three Portuguese CC Youth Alliances (YA) were established with a total of 41 adolescents (15-18 yo) and activities included system mapping, data collection methods, advocacy training and photo-voice for the development of policy-ideas which were then discussed with relevant stakeholders in online or face-to-face Dialog forums. Results: From the YA activities, the youth identified several challenges: 1) lack knowledge about food and nutrition as well as cooking skills 2) dislike for unattractive school meals 3) preference for unhealthy cheap food outside the school premises 4) need of nutrition training and education provided since early ages, at school setting. “To include nutrition and cooking contents in the curriculum of the Citizenship/ Civic Education subject in schools”. From this main policy-idea an implementation and evaluation plan was built as a theoretical exercise that potentially could be used in a real-life context and applied in Portugal. Conclusions: As the next generation of adults and decision makers, youth must be involved in shaping the current and future policies. As in Portugal Food and Nutrition Education in schools relies on voluntary guidelines and occasional school-based programs, the importance of integrating nutrition and food related contents in the school curriculum to promote healthier and sustained eating habits, as recognized and proposed by CC Youth, should be acknowledged and an opportunity to turn the youth-led policy-ideas into feasible and applicable action to effectively prevent obesity.