Tag Archives: food literacy

Food education is not a luxury

What’s for Lunch? has attracted some great responses on the international front, especially in Brazil. Yesterday, the World Food Programme’s Centre for Excellence Against Hunger—a collaboration between the government of Brazil and the WFP that started with a focus on best practises for school feeding—published a Q& A with me about the book and what I discovered in my research about how different nations around the world approach school meals.
Below, you’ll find one of their (rather tough) questions. To read the whole interview, click here.
Is the emphasis that is sometimes placed on nutritional education a luxury that only richer countries can afford? Or is it wrong to make the distinction between feeding and nurturing?
There are times of emergency when almost any food is good enough for a short period—during the heat of war, natural disaster, etc. But I think we all need to strive for something better than emergency rations devoid of taste, culture and pleasure. Children in developing nations should have all the opportunities that children elsewhere enjoy. Nutrition education is part of this. To alleviate anemia, for instance, we need to ensure children are offered food that is rich in iron, but we also need to talk to them about why it’s important, so they can pass it on to their parents and their own children as they grow older. But I also think food literacy needs to be more than just education about nutrients, micronutrients and food groups, educators should be talking with children about where food comes from, who grows it, how it’s grown, the politics of agriculture and the world of processed food. We have a deeply interconnected international food system, so these issues touch not just those in wealthy nations but people everywhere. In fact, you could easily argue that it’s the poor who benefit least in our current food system. Shouldn’t they have a chance to learn about how the system works and why? It seems to me that talking to children and helping them make the links between their food, their lives and those of people in the world around them is one of the very best way to truly transform the system so that it’s sustainable and just. I was really inspired by some groups in Peru that are working in collaboration with indigenous people to reclaim their food culture, language and traditions in part by connecting schoolchildren with elders in their communities who remember the old agricultural techniques and knowledge of plants. This is the kind of food education I’m talking about and it’s no luxury, it’s a necessity.
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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

Teaching food literacy

When you’re deeply immersed in a subject, it can sometimes seem as if everything is connected to it. I remember when I was writing my first book, Into the Blue, and every conversation I had seemed to be somehow related to the themes I was exploring. It was thrilling—a kind of revelation, as if the apparently diffuse world of ideas had somehow—conveniently—coalesced around my interests. Of course, it wasn’t exactly true in a global sense, just true for me at that time.

Right now, I’m in the middle of writing another (adult) book about food and food politics—my second book about food in 2 years—and once again it seems to me as if the ideas and themes I’m so engaged in thinking about are everywhere. So when I was asked to show how my book, What’s for Lunch? can be used as a curricular resource in Ontario schools, all I could think was how the ideas in it are connected to everything.

I don’t think I’m completely off-base, though. Food, after all, is the great connector. What you eat is directly related to your health and the health of the planet. Food is the biggest industry on earth—growing, packaging, selling, etc.— so, naturally, it’s connected to the economy, the environment and social justice.

There are endless ways that creative educators can involve food (and, of course, What’s for Lunch?!) in their curriculum. In fact, more and more people (check out FoodShare’s Meredith Hayes’ CBC interview on the subject here) are calling for “fooderacy” to become an explicit part of the school system. After all, with obesity rates rising among young people, and diet-related health problems exploding, you could argue it’s essential to the well-being of our country.

The Stop Community Food Centre has recently produced a fabulous guidebook—the basis of its Grade 5 sustainable food systems workshops—and made it available to teachers and anyone else who needs help integrating food into their curriculum.

The book was originally designed as a take-away for the Grade 5 teachers who bring their kids to The Stop’s incredible Green Barn. But it will be an excellent resource for any teacher (in Canada or elsewhere) who’s interested in developing programs around food issues. It is especially good on that hardest of subjects: how food is connected to social justice. Divided into five units, it includes suggested activities, resources and personal stories. You can request a copy of the guide by emailing general@thestop.org

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens, School lunch