Q&A with Ontario Federation of Agriculture's Tyler Brooks on their 6x16 Survey

Based on the 6x16 local food literacy initiative that aims to teach teenagers how to plan and prepare 6 nutritious meals by the age of 16, Ontario Federation of Agriculture has created a survey to gauge the knowledge, attitude and awareness of local food of the teenagers and households with children demographic.

1) Hi Tyler, care to do a quick introduction about yourself for the readers?

I’m the E-Communications Coordinator for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), working out of the OFA head office in Guelph.

I’m responsible for the management, development and distribution of online content pertaining to OFA’s website and social media platforms. I’m also responsible for monitoring and maintaining the organization’s brand reputation online. I provide analysis and measurements regarding the impact of OFA’s online communications, with specific focus on web and social media content.

2) Can you tell me a little bit about the food literacy survey OFA has been working on?

The food literacy research project stems from the work we’ve done on the Six by Sixteen initiative. As part of the research project, we are conducting a survey that will help gauge the knowledge, attitude and awareness of local food, food literacy, food production and food access of consumers in Ontario. The survey probes consumers to provide information about their knowledge of local food availability, local food production, food access, as well as their food purchasing habits and meal preparation. The results of the food literacy attitude and awareness survey will also enable us to better understand consumer behaviour as it relates to accessing local food and food literacy information.

This is an opportunity to get in the homes of both rural and urban communities and understand their level of local food literacy.

It will be distributed into the field for a two-week period at the beginning of April.

3) What is the 6x16 project?

There's a very clear link between healthy eating habits and lifelong health. Promoting greater food literacy is the driver behind OFA’s development of the Six by Sixteen program.

Six by Sixteen wants to ensure the next generation knows how to make healthy, nutritious food choices by helping young people learn to plan and prepare six nutritious meals by the time they are 16 years old. The program is also promoting the use of the healthy, local and accessible food produced in Ontario, and that will continue to fuel the economy.

The SixbySixteen.me website is an online gateway to existing resources that will help entice young people to learn more about making healthy, nutritious food choices – how to find local food and some basic cooking 101 tips. OFA created this online hub of resources for parents, health professionals and young teens to promote local food and healthy food choices.

The food literacy initiative is supported by more than 20 industry partners, including Ontario commodity organizations and local food groups. The Six by Sixteen website provides online resources that will help arm teenagers and youth with lifelong skills, lifelong health and they'll be supporting local farmers, food processors and our economy.

4) How does the 6x16 project fit in with the National Food Strategy?

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), along with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) identified the food literacy as a key objective in the National Food Strategy, a vision for food and agriculture in Canada that is meant to guide policy development in the food system. Improved nutritional well-being depends on food literacy and on food access. OFA strongly believes food literacy contributes to lifelong wellbeing, a sustainable health care system and supports our agri-food sector. 

5) Back to the survey, how was it developed and what is the ultimate goal OFA has for it 

Improving the health of Ontarians and growing Ontario’s agri-food industry relies on knowledge and appreciation of food. OFA believes that Ontario must now engage in a serious long-term effort to improve literacy and access for food across Ontario.

The survey was developed with input from the project committee, which includes OFA, Ontario Home Economists’ Association, AgScpae, Farm & Food Care, Public Health Nutrition Resource Centre and Kynetec, as well as information and insights received during the two focus group sessions. The focus group sessions provided the committee with a knowledge base to develop the survey questions. It will be an online survey that will be distributed to three different target sample groups: teenagers aged 12-16, millennials aged 18-26 and parents with young families (children in the household under 18 years of age).

The ultimate goal of the survey is to establish baseline data of food literacy levels among Ontario consumers across three different demographics. This data would help us better understand consumer knowledge of local food, food production, food access and food preparation.

6) If there is one insight that you've gleaned from the focus groups that you think every Ontario farmers and producers should know, what is it?

The one constant theme throughout the focus groups is there does not seem to be a strong sense of loyalty towards Ontario farmers and local food. 

7) What's the funniest feedback you've heard from the teenage participants?

When discussing the topic of local food production during the focus group, the teenage participants had a lot of misconceptions related to agriculture and food. They did not know that many farmers have received a university education. They were very surprised when they heard the level of education of Ontario farmers.