Academic journal article College Student Journal

Getting Started for Preparing Pre-Service Early Childhood Teachers in Terms of Sustainable Food Consumption: The Current Situation at a Public University in Turkey

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Getting Started for Preparing Pre-Service Early Childhood Teachers in Terms of Sustainable Food Consumption: The Current Situation at a Public University in Turkey

Article excerpt

This study investigated the food consumption and nutrition perceptions of pre-service early childhood teachers using a mixed method research design. Data was gathered from 37 pre-service early childhood teachers through survey consisting of items in rating scale and open-ended questions. Descriptive analyses were conducted to report pre-service teachers' behaviors pertinent to food consumption. Furthermore, content analyses were conducted generating three themes namely, general perceptions of nutrition, perceptions of their own dietary specialization as well as related factors, and the impact of the nutrition course on these perceptions. The findings indicated that despite being well informed about nutrition, these pre-service teachers demonstrated behaviors incompatible with sustainable food consumption patterns. Moreover, these individuals were found to have common perceptions regarding nutrition; they considered eating essential for life, also stating that certain foods were not good for their health, but neglecting a perspective of food footprint. Although the pre-service teachers declared that they gained knowledge about nutrition through the course, they could not put this knowledge into practice for various reasons mostly related to being a student. Furthermore, the participants also referred to the significance of the nutrition course and made suggestions to improve its content.

KEY WORDS: Food consumption, sustainability, early childhood education, pre-service teachers

Introduction

The early childhood years are significant in terms of growth and development thus, nurturing healthy dietary specialization in this period is crucial. In those years, malnutrition and unhealthy food consumption may cause illnesses or result in reduced activity, inability to think and concentrate, as well as increased irritability and anxiety. It has been shown that 6- to 11-year-old children who have been exposed to inadequate nutrition have lower grades and experience problems in their relationship with other children (Evers, 2006). Thus, the quantity and quality of nutrition that children receive has been considered as a critical issue in early ages is (Kilcast & Angus, 2011). It has been also advocated that there is a direct link between eating behavior in childhood and their future health and attitudes concerning food (Brawley & Henk, 2014). From a broader perspective, claimed by Branen and Fletcher (1999), poor nutrition in childhood could have a permanent impact on children's future life.

In this regard, people around the children have an impact on the child's food choices and willingness to try new foods (Bellows & Anderson, 2006). Children's eating practices can be influenced by both primary careers and childcare providers through the availability and accessibility of food, meal structure, food modeling, food socialization practices and food-related parenting styles (Davison & Birch, 2001). In other words, children's eating behavior is affected by teacher and family in the way they offer foods, interact with children during meal times and model appropriate eating behavior (Savage, Fischer & Birch, 2007). Among these, positive modeling provides an increase in food interest among children (Gregory, Paxton & Brozovic, 2010); however, poor models have an impact on the food perceptions and mealtime behavior (Matheson, Spranger, & Saxe 2002). In particular, teachers can act as positive models for children by sitting and eating with them at meal times (Eliassen, 2011). During meal times, adults' behaviors and attitudes can have an impact on future dietary specialization of children since they are more likely to adopt adults' positive and negative tendencies about food at these times. Thus, meal times are crucial as times for the childcare provider to give messages to children about what is acceptable and not acceptable regarding food (Brawley & Henk, 2014).

When teachers also integrate nutrition and health into the curriculum, children are more likely to adopt a healthy eating style (Manning, 2003). …

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