March 21 is designated as World Home Economics Day by the International Federation of Home Economics. You may have seen home economics related hashtags on social media as the day was celebrated around the world.
For most of us, when we hear home economics we think of cooking, sewing and family classes in school. But home economics, or human ecology, family studies, consumer sciences or some other name in your province or territory, has grown to meet the present day needs of consumers.
The study of home sciences has been around for over a century, and started as basic outreach programs that taught about food, textile and family sciences to rural communities. As the demand for home sciences increased, this is where we saw the beginning of and growth in home economics, the basic skills for life, because home economics focuses on the health of the individual, family, and the community.
Home Economics is not new, there were home economics conferences held as early as 1899 in Lake Placid, to discuss present home science needs, and the future of mental, moral, and physical health in the family.
The best examples I can think of early Home Economists in Canada are Fannie Twiss and Ruth Binnie. They both saw a need to reach rural communities in Saskatchewan, travelling over one thousand miles a month, teaching their household sciences program, which included textiles, nutrition, and also a hot lunch. The main goal was to teach children and youth to sew, and make a hot meal for dinner when they grew up.
While home economics has evolved, and its name has changed, to primarily human ecology in Canada, it still focuses on improving and empowering the wellbeing and quality of life for communities, families and individuals.
Home economics is formed by the human ecological model. At the core is humans, or individuals, and the natural environment, human constructed environment and the human behaviour environment surrounding the core. Individuals are seen through this lens, and interventions are done accordingly.
Home economics isn’t just about what is trendy. For example, instead of focusing on what the latest diet is, home economics is science focused, which has been an anchor throughout these health trends, that a healthy nutritional diet and balanced lifestyle helps maintain well-being.
In 2015, home economics is needed more than ever, with rapidly increasing consumer debt, individual nutrition concerns, obesity, ever changing family dynamics and roles, individuals, families and communities need information and interventions at the individual, family, community and government level that will support them and help them grow and adapt to an ever changing world.