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Shopping for groceries will now be taught at Stanford University

By Megan Hamilton     Feb 15, 2015 in Health
Stanford - In an effort to help students learn the basics of living healthfully, Stanford University is conducting classes in something that many of us would consider rather mundane:
Learning how to buy groceries.
The university has found that students are surprisingly out of the loop when it comes to grocery shopping, cooking, and how to make healthy food choices, Tree Hugger reports. The classes are held in conjunction with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's non-profit Food Foundation.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver stands beside an effigy of himself during a visit to Carshalton Boys Spo...
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver stands beside an effigy of himself during a visit to Carshalton Boys Sports College in England on November 26, 2012
Arthur Edwards, Pool/AFP/File
The classes are available to all students and will teach the ins and outs of grocery shopping, cooking, and making healthy food choices. Eric Montell, who runs the dining program at Stanford had this to say, The Salt Blog reports:
"I've had a student say to me, 'I don't even know how to fry an egg.' You know, they have such a rich academic program here at Stanford. But students sometimes forget the practical part of 'Wait a minute. I'm going to graduate and I'm going to have to cook for myself.'"
This comes at a time when Americans, and it turns out, lots of people worldwide, are fighting the battle of the bulge.
A recent survey of 188 countries showed that nearly 30 percent of the world's population, or 2.1 billion people are either overweight or obese, NBC News reports. Not one single country has lowered its obesity rate since 1980, this study, the first of its kind points out. The U.S. only accounts for five percent of the world's total population, but despite this Americans make up 13 percent of the global overweight and obese population.
The worst news is this: Kids are heavier than they've ever been, the survey, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, reports. The percentage of overweight or obese children and teenagers has risen drastically — by nearly 50 percent since 1980, and more than 22 percent of girls and almost 24 percent of boys in developed countries are now overweight or obese.
At least 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight, the survey points out, per NBC. There are 78 million obese adults in the U.S., the highest number of any country in the world, including China, which has four times the number of people. Almost three-quarters of American men and more than 60 percent of women are overweight or obese, the study finds.
Not only that, nearly 30 percent of children and teens in the U.S. are either obese or overweight, and that's up from 19 percent in 1980. That's nearly twice as many as Europe, and only four percent of kids in the Netherlands or Sweden are overweight.
So hopefully, these classes will come in handy for many students who are already over-harried and overwhelmed with studies.
The chefs at Stanford's dining program are working with Oliver's foundation in the hopes of creating a full curriculum when school starts this fall. The Teaching Kitchen also works in conjunction with Stanford researchers to develop the proper parameters to track the eating habits of students who are enrolled in the program, to see if the cooking classes can influence the ways that people think about food, The Salt Blog reports.
With obesity rates so high, it's imperative to teach college kids how to cook, Montell said.
"If you look at the restaurants they have in most towns across the country, there's not just healthy food that's out there," he says. "And from a global climate [change] perspective, making sustainable food choices can have a bigger impact than even driving a Prius."
Other healthful programs have sprung up across the country, such as chef Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, Calif., as well as Philadelphia's Urban Nutrition Initiative. These programs focus on teaching young children about growing food and maintaining a healthy diet, The Salt Blog reports, noting that Stanford's program is one of the first fully comprehensive programs designed with young adults in mind.
In January, the Teaching Kitchen was off and running, with Oliver teaching the first class, demonstrating how to make risotto.
Freshman Kathleen Howell attended Oliver's class. She didn't know who Oliver was, but her friends clued her in.
"When I told my friends I was doing a class with Jamie Oliver, they were really excited, so I had to figure out why," she told The Salt Blog.
She says her cooking skills are pretty basic.
"I think it's definitely a skill lacking in a lot of students," she says. "So when I told my dorm mates that Stanford would be offering classes, they were all really excited about it."
Howell, like all freshman living in Stanford's dorms, eats at the university's dining halls, and doesn't have access to a full kitchen. She notes that other students do, but often don't know how to use them effectively.
Montell notes that the classes are an excellent way to inspire students "and get them excited about food," so that they can maintain healthier diets, while they are in school and long after they graduate.
With American's weight woes increasing, these classes are perhaps, a little ray of hope.
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