• Food Literacy: Insights from UK Nutrition and Health Professionals on an Emerging Concept

      Kennedy, Lynne; Simon, Mariana (University of Chester, 2019-02-28)
      Review paper abstract: Today’s foodscape is characterized by an abundance of unhealthy food and food practices, and evidence suggests that this has negatively impacted on people’s health and wellbeing, leading to the modern malnutrition of obesity and chronic diseases. Food literacy concept has emerged as a promising tool to help people navigate the food system in a health-enhancing manner and so, take control over their dietary practices and behaviours. Food literacy has built momentum by being employed either implicitly or explicitly in dietary interventions, and this led to an increased interest of researchers to establish a shared meaning of the term. This study aimed to explore the current understanding of the food literacy concept and, possibly identify any gaps in the existing literature that may help reach a consensus on its definition and conceptual framework. For this purpose, it provided an overview of the food literacy definitions, components and competencies as well as its association with other health-related concepts, such as nutrition and health literacy. It followed a systematic review approach and discussed 19 paper articles which were selected based on their contribution to the conceptual framework of the term and the understanding of its relationship with other health-related concepts. Although a relatively novel concept, many variations of the definitions, components and competencies of food literacy could be identified in the current literature. This suggests that food literacy concept is subject to the environmental dynamics and, therefore, it calls for understanding and conceptualization in the light of one’s personal and environmental experiences. A gap in the existing literature concerned with food literacy education has been identified through the absence of any research on this topic conducted in the UK context. Research paper abstract: Globally, food systems continue to grow in complexity and, consequently, it becomes more difficult for people to engage in healthy food practices. This ‘food confusion’ may lead to unhealthy eating patterns and, consequently to diet-related diseases. This concern urged health practitioners and public health policy-makers to find optimal solutions to re-connect people with their food in a health-enhancing manner. The ‘food literacy’ concept emerged as a promising tool to foster positive food relationships and so, help people maintain and improve their health. It has been argued that the components and competencies of food literacy are not static but influenced by one’s personal and environmental experiences. There are many variations of the food literacy definition and competencies, however, this concept has not been explored and defined in the UK context. This study aimed to explore the food literacy concept, its defining components and key determinants in the UK context. The objectives were to capture the views of UK health and nutrition professionals on this emerging concept and construct a conceptual framework of the term. The World Café research technique was employed to explore participants’ understanding of the concept of food literacy and the thematic analysis method was used to analyze their views on this topic. The findings revealed a wide range of competencies clustered into two main domains: Applied Food Education and Empowerment and Food Ethics. Key determinants impacting on food literacy were identified at two levels: Agency (personal capabilities) and Structure (System capabilities). The conceptual framework of food literacy as understood in the UK context as well as identifying the influencing factors may help UK health practitioners and public health policy-makers to use food literacy explicitly in health-promoting dietary interventions and food education programmes.