What’s in a name? The Story of Saperewpmanager
Stina Algotson is Chair of the Board of Sapere international. Her presentation at the Sapere conference held in Cambridge in October told us that the Latin word ’sapere’ (pronounced ‘sap-er-ay’) means “to know”, “to be able to”, “to taste” and “to feel”. Latin-dictionary.net adds that the three meanings are 1. Have sense 2. Taste of 3. Understand.
The TastEd teaching philosophy is based on the Sapere method, which – as the translation of the name encapsulates – aims to give children knowledge of food through their senses. We believe that teaching children about food shouldn’t simply be telling them which foods are ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’, or mandating quantities of fruit and vegetables to eat each day. Instead we hope to harness childrens’ natural curiosity by giving them fun opportunities to touch, taste, smell, listen and talk about a variety of foods, and through these adventures to widen their preferences in a healthy direction.
This year’s conference was dedicated to Roelof Huurneman, the founder and first president of Sapere International. We asked Stina a few questions about why it was so important to honour his memory.
What is the story behind Roelof setting up Sapere?
Roelof had a lifelong interest in food and food quality. He had a double education in dairy engineering and business management. Born and educated in The Netherlands, he also started his career there as a deputy director of milk factories. Early in his career he moved to France to join the Bongrain company, a family owned global business with quality brands as the Vahlrona chocolate and cheese and other dairy productions in 29 countries all over the world. Roelof became the director of quality for the Bongrain Group (now named the Savencia Group). So he travelled the world during many years with the professional focus on food quality including sensory qualities. It was during a meeting with professor Ep Köster in 1993 that Roelof discussed the importance of people understanding food quality, and the need of food education for children/the future consumer. Ep told Roelof about Jacques Puisas who had already (during the 1980s) developed a sensory food education program for children in France. Puisas had funded L’Institut de Gout (the Taste Institute) in Tours.
Were his ideas it immediately embraced by the teaching profession? How fast did the Sapere method grow?
The sensory education program was [first produced by] Jacques Puisais and in use since the mid 1980s in France. We heard about it in Sweden in the beginning of the ‘90s, and I had already met with Jacques Puisais in 1994. We translated and adapted his method to a Swedish context in collaboration with the Swedish Food Agency and the method is still disseminated to schools and teachers by them https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/bestall-ladda-ner-material/sok-publikationer/broschyr/mat-for-alla-sinnen-sensorisk-traning-enligt-sapere-metoden/
In Finland there is a large group of people with Swedish as first language, so Finland imported the Swedish handbook quite quickly and used it in Swedish speaking regions. They also translated it to Finnish and used it and developed it in a large health project lead by Arja Lyytikainen.
Roelof was the architect of the European collaboration. And Sapere International founded in 1995 supported the dissemination of the Jacques Puisais sensory education method to other countries. And quite quickly after that sensory education became used in also in the Netherlands, Switzerland and in Norway. We were contacted by our members in Japan 2015 and by Jason O’Rourke (UK) in 2016. Belgium and Czech Republic have joined during the last years.
What did Roelof consider to be the greatest triumphs achieved by Sapere?
I never heard Roelof talk about any greatest triumphs so I cannot really tell you. He was very happy with every new country where the method really reached children in schools and kindergarten. He was very happy with the work we did in Sweden and thereafter in Finland and the connection to our government food and health agencies, it was a quality stamp for the method. He was happy with the development of the yearly Scientific Symposia and a growing interest by researchers from different countries investigating the effects of sensory training.
Roelof was also very, very happy with the introduction of the method in the UK. He understood the translation to English opens up for dissemination to a new group of children in many more countries.
What did he feel were the greatest challenges faced by Sapere? Have these challenges changed as we look into the future?
One challenge is that in many countries there is a demand of proof of concept before public money will be invested in sensory education in school. And it is very difficult to present robust proofs of the effects the sensory education has on health. Childrens’ health depends on so many different factors!
We did not have that problem in Sweden since the National Food Agency made their decision to support the method. I think they just used common sense and the same for the ministries in Finland who have given great support to the development and dissemination of the method. We also have free school lunches in those two countries which lowers the barriers to connecting school, food and health.
From my work with Sapere International since 1995 I clearly see that the Sapere/sensory education approach is becoming more and more in demand in more and more countries. I think we are becoming aware that just giving out nutritional information does not work as well as intended in improving health.
How many countries now base teaching programmes on the Sapere method?
There are 10 countries so far: Finland, France, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Belgium and the Czech Republic are just beginning.
What are your goals for Sapere International over the next few years?
Our goal is to provide support to 1-2 new countries (per year) in Europe who feel ready to develop and spread sensory education that reaches children in a non-profit way.
We also have a lot of requests from Canada, Australia, USA and New Zealand that we are going to respond to, possibly in collaboration with TastEd.
An aim is to reach into the teacher’s curriculum in the different countries.