Joyce Slater, Professor, RD, MSc, PhD

Food & Human Nutritional Sciences
University of Manitoba

Food literacy: Promoting good food relationships for health and well-being

High rates of obesity and nutrition-related illness increase risk of poor mental and physical health and erode well-being. In addition, social media, ultra-processed food dependence, and culinary de-skilling have negatively affected food relationships for many, in particular children and youth who are vulnerable to fast food environments and inappropriate messaging about food, weight, and body image. The COVID pandemic has worsened these vulnerabilities for many. Most ‘healthy eating’ promotion strategies are focused on reductionist interventions such as nutrition labels and altering intakes of individual ingredients/nutrients of ‘public health concern’ (e.g. sugar and salt). These strategies have not improved overall population nutritional health and other approaches are warranted. Food literacy presents a wholistic, positive approach to conceptualizing and developing food and nutrition education strategies for children and adults, as an upstream cornerstone of healthcare and education. Scholars and educators must, however, be mindful of historic and contemporary associations of food discourses, particularly domestic food work, with traditional female gender roles including the ‘good mother’ ideal. This session will present food literacy as a construct as well as examples of pragmatic tools for promotion of food literacy. It will also discuss the need for non-moralizing and gender-inclusive/non-biased messaging when promoting food literacy through knowledge translation initiatives. Finally, a case will be made for researchers/educators to develop reflexivity when talking and writing about food literacy.

Speaker/Chair Bio:

Dr. Joyce Slater is a Professor of Community Nutrition in the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, at the University of Manitoba. She teaches food and nutrition literacy education, and public health nutrition. Joyce uses mixed methods and participatory approaches to conduct research on food and nutrition security; the role of food literacy in well-being; and nutrition epidemiology. Her research has been funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Home Economics Foundation.  Joyce is a Registered Dietitian who worked in various public health organizations for 18 years before obtaining her PhD and joining the University of Manitoba.