Children 'changing the way we eat'

Marshall Reid at a fresh food shop Marshall Reid is a 12-year-old now touring the US promoting healthy eating

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A ban preventing a nine-year-old Scottish schoolgirl from taking pictures of her school meals for her blog has been reversed. But she's not alone - we take a look at the new generation of children with renewed interest in what they eat and why.

Marshall Reid came home from his school in North Carolina, US one day and decided enough was enough.

"I went up to my mum and I said you know what? I'm done."

"I've always been overweight and I was being bullied constantly," said 12 year-old Marshall.

He decided it was time for him to do the opposite of "supersize me" and with the help of his mother, he started to live by something he calls "portion size me", video blogging about his experiences.

"We sat down and came up with six goals that we felt would help us get to that one big goal of being healthy," said Marshall.

Healthy recipes for children:

Mango smoothie
  • Oriental chicken salad: This spicy, crunchy salad is low in fat but full of flavour - perfect for a healthy dinner.
  • Smoky tomato sauce: Roasting the tomatoes first gives this quick tomato sauce a smoky edge. Stir through pasta with a handful of olives.
  • Real guacamole: Check out the easy, authentic dip that the Hairy Bikers brought back from their Mexican travels. Serve with nachos.
  • Mango smoothie: A little goes a long way, so serve in small glasses.
  • Banana muffins: These make a healthy breakfast treat - perfect for weekend mornings.

"You know, little tiny goals like eat real foods, get moving, help out in the kitchen," he said. It has been reported he dropped two trouser sizes.

It was a watershed moment for the Reid family.

"I think I'm a perfect example of a parent that failed and if my son didn't step up and talk to me about it, we would've continued down a really unhealthy and sad way of life," said Marshall's mother, Alex Reid.

"I think kids need to stand up to their parents and their neighbours and their churches and their clubs and everybody and say I have a right to feel better and nutritional food will help me feel better."

Marshall now works to raise more awareness about how eating healthily and being healthy can make for a happier life.

He is just one of the children across the world taking an interest in health and nutrition and sharing their experiences.

Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne was banned by Argyll and Bute Council from photographing her school meals and posting the pictures on her blog. The decision was reversed after an international outcry last week.

So why have children started to engage so much with their food?

"I think... that kids are starting to realise that they have a voice," Alex Reid said.

"Perhaps it's also coupled with some of the awareness things going on like 'Food Revolution' (a Jamie Oliver initiative) or like Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move', or like the grass roots organisations that are really reaching out to the communities."

The Reids said they were inspired by British chef Jamie Oliver, and the feeling seems to have been mutual. Marshall is one of the chef's "Food Revolution heroes".

The most recent winner of Jamie's Food Revolution "Blog of the Month" is Epicurious Kids - which features two brothers living in Belgium, cooking and eating their way through the traditional foods of 192 countries.

Marshall Reid speaking to a class Alex Reid says Marshall inspires other children to cook for their parents

This new engagement youngsters are having with food seems to generate momentum.

After food education events that Marshall organised, Alex Reid said that other children would come up and say they couldn't wait to go home and cook for their parents.

"He seems to be feeding off other kids energy," she said.

Similar enthusiasm is shared elsewhere too. The UK's School Food Matters originally campaigned to improve food services in schools in Richmond and Kingston.

They have now broadened out their work, teaming up with chefs to get healthy sustainable food into schools and educate children about where their food comes from.

The charity runs sessions in which chefs go into schools and they find themselves inundated.

"When we take chefs to school who know that we can only accommodate let's say 15 students in a cooking session run by a chef," said Isla Meynell from School Food Matters.

"(The schools) say that so many of their students would want to attend that they're having to run kind of competitions to select the 15 that will get to."

They have learned lessons from what has been going on around the the world in recent years.

At around the same time as Jamie Oliver was addressing schools in London, Alice Waters was working on her Edible Schoolyard, said Isla Meynell.

School dinner being served "The food environment is completely different to what it was 50 years ago," says School Food Matters

"We've all been lucky to learn and share from each other," she said.

The organisation believes that cookery and an understanding of where food comes from has never been more important.

"There are so many choices out there now. The food environment is completely different to what it was 50 years ago, so people have got to be able to navigate this new world.

"You know schools, and parents as well, have a duty... to help children learn how to navigate those choices successfully," said Isla Meynell.

"I think we see it as being one of those fundamental life skills that everybody should have."

In 2010 the University of California, Berkeley, completed a study of the School Lunch Initiative, a food education scheme in the US.

It found that children who attended schools that included teaching about cooking and growing food exhibited better knowledge about making healthy food choices, better attitudes about food, and improved eating habits.

Marshall Reid is doing his bit to try to keep public attention focused on the issue.

With a book based on his campaign now published, he is currently on a country-wide tour of 30 cities in the US, talking about nutrition.

But perhaps the important thing about his "portion size me" campaign is the effect that the changes have had on his life.

"I can think better, I can think clearer, I have better grades in school, I'm faster, I can run longer.

"So many different things. It's physical and mental," he said.

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