“Our research is useful and changes people’s lives”, says Nina Øverbye, professor and leader of Centre for Lifecourse Nutrition, UiA’s priority research centre for food and nutrition in a lifecourse perspective. The centre had its opening seminar this week.
Lifecourse Nutrition is one of six priority research centres at the University of Agder. The centre is connected with the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences and was established in the autumn 2018. The centre’s mission is to conduct high quality research in co-creation with stakeholders to stimulate, promote and advocate a healthy food environment for the benefit of all citizens, and to improve the diet and health of individuals throughout their lifecourse.
During the opening seminar, guests from many countries and several research projects were presented. One of them is Matmot (Food courage) which looks at food and nutrition measures in 20 pre-schools in Agder. Else Berit Naro and Esben Bjellerås from the pre-school Hokus Pokus were interviewed by Associate Professor Sissel H. Helland, who recently defended her PhD thesis ‘Matmot i barnehagen – En studie av toåringers matneofobi og kosthold og hvordan dette kan endres’ (‘Food courage in pre-school – A study of neophobia and nutrition in two-year-olds and how it can be changed’)
“The way we see food and view the importance of food in pre-school has changed with the Food courage research project. Meals are no longer just about feeding the children but are a basis for manners and learning”, Naro and Bjellerås say.
Food courage started as a smaller project but has now been introduced in the pre-school as a whole. The two explain that the research has had an effect on the staff, parents and children.
“The meals we serve have changed, and all members of staff have become more conscious and involved. The children benefit from this, and the parents notice that it has an effect on them. We don’t hear ‘yuck’ in the pre-school anymore when it comes to food”, the two say.
Food courage received funding from the Norwegian Women's Public Health Association, and their Secretary-General Grete Herlofson attended the seminar.
“We are proud to be able to contribute to the research and to see that researchers here have an integrated approach to food and nutrition”, she says.
Professor Harry Rutter from the University of Bath in England researches the societal challenges related to nutrition. He is now affiliated with UiA and Lifecourse Nutrition and holds a ten percent position as an adjunct professor.
“The challenge is not only to get preschool children to eat broccoli and other vegetables, but to make the changes last a lifetime. Food is connected to everything. What I eat is affected not only by my taste, but by who I am, how I was raised, the cost of the food and even by public policy”, Rutter says.
“We are what we eat, but how do we eat healthy when newspapers and social media are full of conflicting advice on nutrition. It frustrates many of us. That is why the research you do is so important, because there is a great need for reliable evidence-based information about nutrition”, UiA’s Rector Sunniva Whittaker says in her address to the priority research centre.