Teaching The Teachers – B N F Launches New Nutrition Platform

 The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has launched a new professional development platform for primary school teachers, in response to the results of research which shows that many teachers are getting little training in the area of nutrition; yet poor nutrition and an unhealthy lifestyle is detrimental to health and academic performance.  Launched at a London conference for health professionals and educators to mark its 50th anniversary, the BNF hopes that the online training will provide much needed additional education for teachers. 

Scientific experts presenting at the BNF conference, entitled ‘Talking about the next generation: Nutrition in school aged children’, discussed the importance of good nutrition in the wellbeing, growth and academic development of children.

Professor John Reilly, professor of Physical Activity and Public Health Science at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Lifestyle in childhood and adolescence is not ‘just’ about health, but is also important to academic attainment. The brain is affected by levels of physical activity, body fatness, and physical fitness. Using new evidence on the effects of lifestyle on the brain might be a way of improving educational attainment in the future.”

The BNF’s new professional development course (Teaching food in primary: the why, what and how) delivers seven different training modules, including: food origins, the Eatwell Guide and healthy eating, nutrition understanding, food safety, and cooking in the classroom.  It provides downloadable guides for reflective practice, and culminates in an assessment and BNF certification for those teachers who successfully complete the full course.

 Roy Ballam, Managing Director and Head of Education at the BNF, said: “It is critical that teachers lay the foundations for children to make good dietary and lifestyle choices now and as adults. But most primary teachers have received virtually no formal training in food, nutrition and physical activity. It is because of this that the BNF believes that there is an urgent need to support these teachers during their training and when they are practicing.

“Our professional development programme is inline with the curriculum demands, as well as government food teaching guidelines in schools, and will equip teachers to be able to implement engaging food lessons and healthy school initiatives, for the benefit of all their students.” 

Delegates attending the BNF conference heard from a panel of eminent scientific experts including Professor Ashley Adamson from University of Newcastle, Dr Graham Moore from University of Cardiff, Professor John Reilly of University of Strathclyde, and Professor Jeanne Goldberg from Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA, about the role and impact of a whole school approach to nutrition; the association between breakfast consumption and education outcomes in primary schools, with particular reference to deprivation; the impact of obesity, and of physical activity, on academic attainment; and research which points to the most effective methods of communicating about nutrition with school children.


Nathan Atkinson, Head Teacher, Richmond Hill Primary School in Leeds, presented a case study describing his local work on the impact of hunger, academic achievement and food waste issues.  He said:  “Our work has three key objectives: to remove hunger as a barrier for learning; improve wellbeing outcomes for children and families, both physically and mentally; and lastly to highlight the global issue of food waste. We use food as a medium to engage with children, families and the wider school community. The outcomes have been extremely powerful improving community cohesion being just one.”

Roy Ballam concluded: “Evidence for the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity on the academic achievements of children is accumulating. Our platform enables busy teachers and trainees alike to supplement and enhance their subject knowledge, skills and experience. This will facilitate their work with students, helping them to make healthier choices that will benefit their physical and mental health now and in the long term.”

About the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)

Making nutrition science accessible to all.

BNF was established 50 years ago and exists to deliver authoritative, evidence-based information on food and nutrition in the context of health and lifestyle. The Foundation’s work is conducted and communicated through a unique blend of nutrition science, education and media activities. BNF’s strong governance is broad-based but weighted towards the academic community.  BNF is a registered charity that attracts funding from a variety of sources, including contracts with the European Commission, national government departments and agencies; food producers and manufacturers, retailers and food service companies; grant providing bodies, trusts and other charities. Further details about our work, governance and funding can be found on our website (www.nutrition.org.uk) and in our Annual Reports.

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