FoodCHI 2017

Nov 17 - 18, 2017, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Dr. Helen Vidgen

Queensland University of Technology, Australia


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Food literacy: Key concepts

The term “food literacy” is gaining in popularity. It now features in food policy and research dialogue throughout the world. It has emerged alongside an acknowledgement that there are multiple dimensions to the everyday practice of eating and that the sourcing, selection and provisioning of food in contemporary society is complex. This has occurred alongside poor diet being recognised as a priority health issue globally through the UN declaration of a Decade of Action on Nutrition. It is now recognised that public health nutrition practice must extend beyond the biological sciences to the social, cultural, environmental, economic, and political contributors to healthy eating at individual, household, community and global levels. The varied use of the term “food literacy” reflects these key outcome areas.

This presentation will describe the empirical research undertaken to develop a definition of food literacy, identify its components and describe its relationship to healthy eating. The contextual nature of food literacy, in particular its relationship to food insecurity and disadvantage, and its development over a life-course will also be discussed. While this research conceptually examined food literacy among individuals in Australia, it is now being extended to consider the measurement of food literacy in collaboration with researchers internationally. This provides an opportunity to bring together those concerned with food and eating across paradigms to discuss the key dimensions of eating well and the extent to which they can be described globally.

Short bio:

Helen Vidgen finished high school with a strong interest in food and nutrition and so studied a Bachelor of Applied Science in Home Economics at QUT. A few years later she added a graduated from the Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics and has spent most of her career working as a nutritionist. Helen’s first nutrition job was as the sole clinical dietitian in a rural hospital. From there she progressed along the continuum of care from clinical roles in a tertiary hospital, to community nutrition and executive officer roles at Nutrition Australia and finally into public health as one of Queensland Health’s first public health nutritionists. She remained at Queensland Health for twelve years working in their corporate office on policy and planning, and at the service delivery level in the management of nutrition teams. She now works as a Senior Lecturer at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. Her research focuses on the practical dimensions of meeting nutrition recommendations at individuals, service and system levels. Her PhD defined food literacy and its relationship to diet quality. This work is used by governments throughout Australia and internationally including the WHO. She is a member of the Dietitians Association of Australia and is the food and nutrition group convenor for the Public Health Association of Australia.

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