Copa, Cogeca hold seminar on EU farming’s contribution to a healthier lifestyle

New initiatives to encourage healthy eating habits at an early age and to bring consumers back in touch with nature and farming were presented at Copa and Cogeca’s Seminar on European Farmers and Agri-Cooperatives contribution to a healthier lifestyle.

Speaking at the event, Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said “With the EU facing increasing challenges vis a vis ensuring a healthy lifestyle and tackling obesity, it is important to have a balanced diet and regular exercise to meet these challenges. We believe farmers and agri-cooperatives have a key role to play here. Not only do they provide sufficient quantities of safe, healthy and high-quality food for a growing population, but they help keep the countryside alive with vibrant rural areas”

Mr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe, pointed out “Today, more than 50% of the world population is overweight”.

Looking at ways to improve on this, Mr Pesonen said “Farmers and agri-cooperatives have been making important advances in this area. More and more, there are on-farm activities and farm open days with cooking workshops which provide closer contacts with citizens and enhance consumers’ connection with farming, food & rural areas”. “Annette Toft, Chairwoman of Copa and Cogecas’ working party on foodstuffs added “We cannot overlook the importance of physical activity in tackling obesity and here farm visits and hikes in the countryside is important. Cooking also has to be part and parcel of our everyday lives, through which we learn about and discover new recipes using a wide range of products, helping us to achieve a balanced diet”.

Presenting concrete examples, Mr Roy Ballam from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) who heads up the Foundation’s education work, showed how they are developing resources for schools and running training programmes for teachers around food, farming, cooking and healthy eating. Roy’s presentation focused on how the BNF works in collaboration with British agriculture, with one of the most recent initiatives being Healthy Eating Week for Schools.

Ms Jane Ostergaard Norsk from Arla Foods presented a new initiative involving food camps for children to bring about a positive change in the lifestyle of Danish children and adolescents, encouraging them to cook, and be more familiar with food, nature and local produce. The project also aims at sensitising children and adolescents on issues such as nutrition and food waste. To achieve this, a camp is run for 68 classes in 2015, covering at least 1500 students and educational material is provided to 68 teachers and 1500 students. In this way, students acquire knowledge about different types of food, food seasonality, local produce, preparation techniques, nature, health and wellbeing through practical and interactive learning techniques.

Ms Silvia Bosco, the National Coordinator of Coldiretti Donne Impresa since 2009, explained how Donne Impresa gathers Coldiretti women agri-entrepreneurs to promote the development of women’s entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector, organise educational and cultural activities and have education farms to enhance communication with consumers and formulate proposals on social policies related to the rural world.

Claire Martin, head of the EU office at Coop de France showed how French agri-cooperatives play a key role in adding value to produce and ensuring good quality, healthy, nutritious and sustainable produce.

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