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International Federation for Home Economics Press Release

 

21st March 2016

World Home Economics Day

“Home Economics Literacy: Skills for Families and Consumers”

 

Since 1982 the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) has celebrated World Home Economics Day (WHED). The purpose is to promote the significance of Home Economics and the Home Economics profession. The theme for the WHED 2016 is: “Home Economics Literacy: Skills for Families and Consumers”. The aim of the WHED 2016 is to communicate the major role Home Economics literacy has in contributing to family and consumer wellbeing and quality of life.

“Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong
learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its
ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it
is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, one’s
income, and one’s relationship with the world” (UNESCO, 2016).

The concept of Home Economics literacy is the multidisciplinary expression of several literacies such as food literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, consumer literacy and environmental literacy. Home Economics literacy connects elements such as knowledge, skills, culture, systems, and behaviours to enhance quality of life. The IFHE promotes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the UN 10YFP on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Sustainability is a consistent thread that is applied in Home Economics education.

The IFHE calls for:

  • All active Home Economists around the world highlight the theme
    of the WHED to show the importance of Home Economics
    competences to manage everyday life.
  • Governments consider the strengthening of the Home Economics
    discipline in school-based education as the basis for self-determined
    and sustainable lifestyles.
  • Home Economics professionals around the world promote the
    contribution of Home Economics literacy to achieve the
    Sustainable Development Goals.

 

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Written by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect 
Theo sleeping on the job

Theo doesn't like ironing either

I’m getting a little disheartened by some of the behaviours we have adopted since the 1980s. Today, I thought to myself “what if Home Economics was an Xbox?”. HomeEcConnect has 64 Facebook fans and if I’m lucky one person per week might share one of the stories I post. On the other hand, Xbox has 15,843,451 Facebook fans and this week 598,197 people are talking about it. There is something inherently strange and a little disturbing about this. For me, Xbox games represent a fantasy world – it is fun and exciting – there is no doubt about that… but what are you actually doing? I mean, did you do the housework before you sat down? Did you talk to your family over the breakfast table? Did you take the dog for a walk or the kids to the park? Did you write a blog about your recent adventures in the ‘real’ world? I’m asking – how did you – while playing the Xbox – make a positive contribution to your family today? Hmmmm… This has wider implications – and many of us know it.

I’m not saying get rid of the Xbox – no way! I’m not vilifying Xbox nor any of the computer games. I enjoy a game of Spiro or Dance Star occasionally too! What I am saying is that while we have our faces in the screens – not much is actually getting done. Clean Up Australia was today – who went out and cleaned up something?

Healthy family life means taking actions in the immediate environment that surrounds you. Some jobs we hate doing (I’m not a fan of ironing) – but housework needs to be done – and it is inevitable. A constant never-ending story – just like a computer game!!! Before we fade into the nothingness – why not make housework fun? It’s all in the attitude. If your attitude isn’t conducive to enjoying housework – then change your attitude (p.s. I’m talking to myself here as much as I am talking to you). Prioritising is a necessary skill – and a skill that Home Economics education helps to foster.

To get started – some housework suggestions that can be done right now:

Bromeliads in flower

Bromeliads in flower

Cook something for your family to enjoy tonight and eat at the dinner table with the TV off

Clean something – the toilet is usually a good place to start

Vacuum the lounge room

Wash the dishes

Clean all of the horizontal surfaces that have accumulated “stuff”

Hand craft or sew something beautiful for yourself

Clean out the cat litter tray

Wash the clothes

Change the sheets and pillow cases

Mow the lawn

Clean off your study desk

Do you tax receipts

Clean out the gutters or the swimming pool

Weed the garden

Bromeliad in flower

Bromeliad in flower

Or have a cup of tea with your partner on the back porch and look at the beautiful red flowers that just came up on the Bromeliads and smile together about that enormous butterfly that just floated past. Teamwork is another excellent strategy for making housework fun.

There is so much life out there to be enjoyed… even housework.

Right – I’m off to make sure my son has clean uniforms for the week. Happy housework!

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Leap Year FrogWritten by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect

Today is 29 February 2012… It’s a leap year.

Thought I would share my contribution to the 29thFeb.com blogging project with you.

Jay and RonI was just staring at the lime green wall behind my laptop wondering what to write and I saw the photograph of my partner and I standing under a tree. He has his arm around me protectively and is snuggling into my ear. This reminded me of how much I am loved in my family home. I am a doctoral candidate studying relationships between spiritual health and well-being and Home Economics. My long-term goal is to challenge public perceptions about Home Economics. I believe it is an exceptional discipline that teaches me the importance of knowing who I am, appreciating my family and participating actively in my world. We live by our house rules of honour, trust, respect, integrity and courage.

The KissI am in my study alcove in the corner of my bedroom. My partner is working behind me at his workstation filled with postcards of our world travels and photos of our kids and grand-daughter. I live with my partner, my son and my father. Ron, my partner, is an Actor and is an extraordinarily gifted and talented man. Hartley, my son, is ten years old and one of the most generous and loving people I know. My father, Brian, is an Artist and another brilliant man, who has just finished painting two amazingly beautiful (and enormous) landscapes. I am very proud of my gentlemen – they inspire me every day. I have a very privileged life. I turn 40 this year and I am grateful for the 29th of February because I get to stay 39 for an extra day. My Home Economics education has given me a powerful and unique perspective of my family life. I appreciate the importance and value of my role as mother and I know the gentlemen in my life appreciate me. This 29thFeb project has also reminded me that I am an important part of something bigger.

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Opinion Paper written by Jay Deagon @ HomeEcConnect 

This Youtube video is apparently the product of one bored student in a home economics class.  At least he knew he was learning about Tacos!

My observation is that home economics has suffered from ‘bad press’ for over a century. Is it coincidental that a passage from the 1901 Lake Placid conference papers can be directly quoted today and still hold relevance? Editor of the Boston Cooking School Magazine, Mrs Janet Hill wrote

“The chief concern of thoughtful men and women today is for the physical, practical and economic welfare of the community. In the attainment of these results journalism in the past has played a conspicuous part, but the science of home economics has not yet been considered seriously; the latest thought is looked on as food for a reporter’s ‘story’ or the filling of so much space”.

Home economics is not “women’s work”, nor is it an antiquated “fluffy subject” for the meek and mild.  I believe that home economics is a severely underestimated, misunderstood and misrepresented subject for study and academic discipline. We would not be having this conversation if we were from a “hard science” academy such as chemistry, biology or mathematics. Home economics is a multi- and interdisciplinary applied science that draws its knowledge from many sciences and applies it to human situations. Home economics is, in my considered opinion, one of the most valuable “frontline of defence” tools we currently have to address some of the world’s most pressing issues.  Regardless of the origins of influence, may it be due to lack of respect, oversight, imbalanced value of the role of family, corporate greed, deliberate misinformation or patriarchal oversight. Since 1901, the home economics message has remained clear – teach individuals, families and communities survival skills for an ever-changing world.

Can't stand the heat on TwitterHome economics is serious business.   I am currently in two minds as to the current upsurge in ‘revival of home economics’ discussions.  On one hand, I am rejoicing that my chosen field is getting much-needed attention in the media; on the other hand, I am getting a little  distressed that the valuable work home economists are doing is being overlooked and dismissed by so many.  How deep is this problem?

For the past few months I have been monitoring internet activity through Google alerts for “home economics” and the #homeeconomics hash tag. I have found a few disturbing trends that I would like to share – not only with the global home economics community but with the general public.

  1. There is a distinct lack of quality “home economics” news;
  2. General public comments about “home economics” are not encouraging, frequently
    misinformed and sometimes malicious;
  3. Developed countries are currently talking about “home economics” in relation to “the obesity crisis” and current effective home economics practices are being glossed over;
  4. Amy Hoaks, a journalist who writes the “Home Economics” column for MarketWatch,
    has tagged “home economics” to everything financial and real estate related in America;
  5. Teenage Twitters & YouTubers think that “home economics” is either a “bludge” subject, not exactly inspiring or the place where they eat cupcakes, cookies or tacos;
  6. An exceptionally proactive generation of retired and well-respected home economists are passing away; and
  7. The most popular “home economics” line from a movie is said by Tom Hanks in a mature audience segment of Forrest Gump.

These have been the main items of focus in online media (News Articles, Twitter and Youtube) for the past few months.

For over a century, the role of journalism in spreading messages about home economics has been, at best, just “media filling” –  pieces of “feel good” news about how lovely the food was that those delightful home economics students cooked.  Do not get me wrong, this is excellent news to be reported.  However, apart from hospitality and catering, where is home economics? At this point, I wish to point out a few exceptional stories that I have found (see my previous blog or the HomeEcConnect Facebook page). Unfortunately, these stories are few and far between.   It just seems that in 100 years, not much has changed. This has been somewhat depressing news for me.

I believe home economics is one of the most valuable subjects available in schools. It (should) teach about self-reliance, independent and critical thinking, food and nutrition, clothing, shelter, the critical role of ‘family’, sharing resources and skills, love, respect, social justice, equality, how to shop as an aware, conscious and ethical consumer of goods and services… basically – the importance of sustainable practices for the future security of the planet and its people. These are basic human needs and rights.  It is no small matter that the future of humanity depends on us (re)learning these basic human survival skills. We seem to be losing sight of what is important. The skills taught in home economics are not inbuilt human instincts, they are skills. It is home economics’ honoured position and capacity to teach these skills that inspires me to advocate for home economics.

Home economics is a global phenomenon. There are thousands of home economists doing extraordinarily valuable work around the world. Home economists are found at grassroots intervention levels working directly with students in schools; representatives within policy and decision-making areas at local, national and international associations and agencies; and industry professionals ensuring that the health and well-being needs of family are kept in focus.

I have no doubt that home economics will “survive” but the difference between home economics “surviving” and “thriving” comes down to a concentrated effort of spreading positive messages that infiltrate public and government opinion. How can we, as a profession, achieve this? One insightful member of HomeEcConnect pointed out that sharing our news is probably the most effective way. It is the old adage… if a tree falls in the forest…? If we are truly doing all this inspiring and effective work and don’t tell anyone – how will anyone outside the profession ever know?

I empathise with the busy home economist. So much time and energy is spent delivering programs and marking assessment for the local communities they serve, they do not seem to have enough time to advocate for their own profession. For many home economists, the ‘ethic of service’ is strong.  Specific subject areas get attention, for example, food and nutrition and the obesity crisis, but what about home economics in its entirety? I understand that it is different in different countries, counties and states, but as a whole and holistic subject, home economics does much more than teach “bout cooking n sewing n shit”.

I don’t know about you, but for me, home economics is a serious and life changing business. Legitimising home economics will come down to how much of our professional work we share with the world. It is essential that we keep connected.  We know what is “wrong” with the world and with home economics… but what is going right?  Many home economists are well-informed through their professional associations and newsletters, but how often do we share news through means of mass communication?

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt during my own undergraduate home economics education was to advocate for my own needs and to stand up for what I believe in.  Until now, home economics may have been undergoing a somewhat silent revolution. For over 100 years we have kept working and moving forward; but with the world in crisis and home economics offering some solutions, now is not the time for silence or fear of the unknown. We are a courageous and innovative profession. We need to tell people about the work we do or home economics will continue to be glossed over in the media and by governments who grant us funding.

I am an independent voice for home economics.  One purpose for me building the HomeEcConnect website is to unite and invite you to share your positive home economics experiences. It may be generational and I may be criticised for having this opinion, but unfortunately, home economics’ future may depend on ‘they who shout loudest’ – because at the moment – the media and general public are drowning out our voices.

I am one voice, I need yours.

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James McIntosh, Home Economist

James McIntosh, Home Economist, Entrepreneur and World Traveller

Interview with James McIntosh via email
Written by
Jay Deagon

 

To be a home economist means different things in different parts of the world. It is a multidisciplinary subject with practitioners employed across a wide variety of fields such as teaching, textiles and fashion industries, family development and relationship advisors, government consultants, health and well-being advocates, scientists and researchers.  A degree in home economics can take you places… as James McIntosh can attest.

James McIntosh is a world award-winning cookery writer, home economist and food demonstrator.  He is flamboyant, talented and very busy.  I asked James to describe what an Industry Home Economists does:

I’m the link between the consumer and industry.  It’s my job to look at the needs and wants of the family as a consumer buying unit.

James works mainly with food and kitchen appliances. Many factors affect a family’s decision to purchase kitchen produce and products.  For example, cost, availability and sustainability of the product.  James’ task is to take his home economics knowledge of families into consideration when as he works with domestic appliance manufacturers to develop a product such as a new oven, stove or frying pan.

For most clients I am employed by the marketing department.  My jobs may include writing, blogging, social networking, cookery demonstrations, recipe development, food styling or product evaluation.  Basically, I make the manufacturer’s product ‘the star’.  I assist with matching the manufacturer’s wants with the needs of the family.  I give the everyday family a voice at design, production and post-production levels.  So that the family will have a product that enhances their life at home and the manufacturer has a product that will sell.

 

James is the CEO of Whisk Media (www.whisk.biz) and offers many services for clients.  He believes that the many forms of media and technology available to us today, such as TV, mobile phone technology and the internet, have a significant role to play in educating and reaching out to consumers.  He thinks and operates on global levels by fully utilising these technologies.

I also have my own brand of products under my own name, www.jamesmcintosh.co.uk, where I write cookery books (some of which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2008 for Best Series of Food Books in the World), I also have an iPhone App out www.whiskapp.com and presented a 20 part TV series in China about food on the Silk Road.

 

Chef Wan of Malaysia, Margaret McIntosh (James' Mum) and James at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 1 July 2009

Chef Wan of Malaysia, Margaret McIntosh (James' Mum) and James at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 1 July 2009

 

To survive, all people must learn how to feed and cloth themself.  This is a learnt skill and not an instinct.  “The family” has remained a constant feature through all of human history.  However, the needs of the family have changed considerably across the years. The way that knowledge is passed down to the younger generations has changed as technology, resource availability, distance and time pressures changed.  Most industries also evolve as the needs of society change.  In westernised societies (such as the UK and Australia) home economics education mainly involves teaching kids cooking and sewing techniques.  I asked James what he believes the main differences are between “old school” (cooking and sewing) home economics and how this compares to the home economics of today.

My mum is a Home Economics teacher, and she has told me many stories about the cooking and sewing days.  What we need to remember is that this can be viewed as ‘old home economics’, but it’s very important as it teaches life skills.  Times have changed, for example we no longer need to be able to darn our socks when they have a hole in them, but we do need to be able to sew on a button.  In terms of cooking its important not to learn a recipe as a nursery rhyme, but to understand the techniques and flavours and how they combine and see these as a building block to make and produce other things.  A good example being learning to rub fat into flour. From this we can make scones, bread, pasta, some cakes, pastry….

So what kinds of things does James think teachers should cover in home economics class?

I think teachers should make home economics fun – life is fun (if we want it to be) and home economics has many great career opportunities.  I’ve seen the world with home economics.  There are opportunities for all, a teacher should encourage students to look at options and find what’s best for them.  Remember home economics is not one subject, its requires the input of many.

James is from the UK but has worked around the world taking home economics to some exotic locations.  As an active member of the Young Professionals Network and member of the International Federation for Home Economics, he is a very active voice for home economics.  He regularly attends industry conferences to keep his knowledge and networks up-to-date and vibrant.  With his extensive international experience, I asked James about how he has seen home economics practiced differently in other countries.

Indeed I have seen the world!  Growing up on a small farm in Northern Ireland I moved to study Home Economics at university in Scotland.  Then I moved to London after and have been here ever since!  I’ve seen most of Europe, Australia, China, Hong Kong, most of the USA and Canada, Jamaica, Japan, North Africa and travelled right across Russia.  Not bad when I’m only 32!  

Each culture has different ways and traditions. However the needs of the family are the same.  Speak to a Japanese Home Economist and their families are exactly the same as ours in the UK.  Same teenage problems, same factors affecting age but their culture differs in that respect.  In the UK home economics has a strong practical cookery ethos in Greece not so much, as the Greek family culture passes down cooking techniques from Grandmother to Mother to Daughter (and hopefully son too!).  Home Economics can’t be the same in each country like Mathematics can.  It has to adapt, bend and breathe for the consumer.  Home Economics is the study and knowledge of families and consumers.

Consumerism, food security and excessive use of resources are a global concern.  These are his thoughts about sustainability and responsible consumerism as aspects of home economics and his work.

Two main points in my work are; reduce food waste and tackle obesity for my food clients and reduce energy in cooking for my appliance clients. Chefs always talk about gas as a great way to cook, but the facts are that a gas hob looses 50% of the energy created when cooking and water is the by-product of using gas.  I’m doing a lot of work on Induction cooking now as that is 98% efficient.   Recipe development for clients is not just about creating nice recipes, it’s about using a product a client manufacturers to make it the best it can be, to encourage consumers to buy and to reduce waste.

His vision for home economics?

My vision for home economics is simple.  Educate through creative means and media. We, as home economists, have the knowledge and experience of consumers, let us put that to use to empower consumers at grassroots level to make good choices in terms of their homes, families, nutrition, purchases, lifestyle, travel, clothing and well-being. 

James is probably one of the world’s highest profile and recognised home economists… and a male… so how important is home economics for young men.  What benefits are there for male students to study home economics?

*smiles with embarrassment* (but it’s probably true).  I’ve worked hard and very long hours to get where I am.  I’ve always talked to people to get to know them, ones network is very important!  What I would say is, home economics is a subject where you have to use so much creativity, and back that up with academic and technical findings.  Like accountancy there is probably more than one correct answer to a problem.  Home economics is the same, there are usually a number of solutions.  The difference is that you have to be particularly discerning about what is correct for the family because the stakes are higher and decisions will have a significant impact on the quality of life.  As a male its been challenging!!  But just look at the opportunities I’ve had, other people have paid for me to see the world with work.  I think that says enough really!

So James, any final words…

The most important part of home economics is that regardless of what, how or where home economics is practiced, the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities remains in focus and at the top of our agenda.

James McIntosh is living the life.  Home economics is fun, very relevant in the modern world and can Whisk you off to all sorts of interesting places!  We look forward to hearing and seeing more from James in the future.

HomeEcConnect is interested in stories about Home Economists doing exceptional and exciting things around the world.  If you have a story, know someone, are someone or would like someone who inspires you interviewed – please contact us!

 

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