Tag Archives: kids books about food

Interview with Sweet Potato Chronicles

A couple of weeks back, I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Ceri Marsh, one of the smart women behind Sweet Potato Chronicles, a funny, useful and great-looking website devoted to the family meal. SPC offers recipes, product reviews, ideas for how to get your kids eating healthily and one of my favourite regular features: “What’s so great about…?” (sage, bay leaves, coffee, pumpkin, etc.). Ceri asked such good questions, I wanted to include a few of them here. For the complete interview, follow the link.

Q: What do you want kids to learn about the world from What’s For Lunch?

A: I hope that children who read (or flip through!) the book will see both their differences and similarities to other kids around the world. I hope they’ll recognize the way that food connects us all. I also hope they’ll read about the kids who are taking charge of what they eat at their schools and in their homes—demanding healthy sustainably grown food, asking questions about how it’s produced and by whom—and see that they can also make a difference.

Q: How important is it for kids to have some control/input in their own meals?

A: I’ve been working with our school garden for a few years now and have seen first-hand how kids who weren’t willing to try a new vegetable (or any veg at all!) ended up eating kale pesto simply because they grew the kale themselves. And I love my own son’s enthusiasm about the knobbly little carrots and bitsy peppers we grow in our tiny urban patch. There’s no question when children have an opportunity to grow, cook, prepare or even just get involved in choosing their food, they take more chances and will eat more healthily. But it’s also more than that: when paired with talk about what all this means (to the planet and their own bodies, for instance) they start to see that even in this small way, their personal choices can have a big impact on their world.

Q: Why do you think there is such a strong interest now in what kids eat at school? Is it the Jamie Oliver effect or is there more to it?

A: There’s no question Jamie Oliver has had a huge impact on the school lunch world. But I think that the interest in school lunch is part of a more widespread engagement in food issues. You can’t turn on your computer or open a newspaper without reading about food safety scares, environmental degradation caused by factory farming, escalating food prices, small-scale farmers leaving the land because they can’t make a living, the obesity crisis. People are starting to understand that the industrial system we’ve established over the course of the last few generations is not sustainable. Interest in school lunch and talking about food with children is part of this. If we can teach our children about food and how it’s connected to all these things they care about (their environment, their health, their community and culture) they might actually have a fighting chance of truly changing this system for the better.

Q: How hard or easy is it for parents to get more involved with the issues of food in schools? I just learned my 5 year old is being given chocolate milk for a snack at her Toronto public school. What the heck?

A: It took me a long time to figure out where I fit into my kids’ school as a parent—whether it’s about academic issues, food or volunteering my time. Nobody wants to be that guy when it comes to the teachers, other parents or administrators, marching in and wagging your finger about bake sales or insisting on whole-grain pizza dough on pizza day. But parents are key participants in the school system and we need to be both clear and respectful talking to schools about our expectations, hopes and concerns. Chocolate milk might be okay as a special treat, but serving it to 5 year olds every day doesn’t sound right at all. There was a huge debate about serving chocolate milk in schools in the US last year. Chef Ann Cooper, a key school meal activist otherwise known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, calls it “sugary soda in drag.” I think schools need to think carefully about the mixed messages they send children when they talk about healthy eating in class (the food groups, nutrients, etc.) and then urge them to sell cookie dough or chocolate bars to raise money or offer them processed food or sugary drinks as incentives or snacks.

For more from the Sweet Potato Chronicles interview, click here.

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School gardens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

Kale in kiddie pools and jalapeños in buckets

I’ve spent a lot of time reading kids’ nonfiction over the last few years. Partly because I enjoy it (and so do my boys) and partly for research purposes as I began thinking about writing my first book aimed at children.

Over and over, writer/editor Hadley Dyer’s name came up. Her book, Watch This Space: Designing, Defending and Sharing Public Spaces, with illustrator Marc Ngui, is a brilliant look at the importance of public space and how kids can be advocates for it. She’s also written some 13 other books and is executive editor of children’s books at HarperCollins, with authors like Dennis Lee, Kenneth Oppel and Michael Redhill in her stable.

Now, in between her full-time work as an editor, Hadley’s managed to write a new book for young readers, this one about urban agriculture. Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City is a fun and informative trip through the world of growing food in urban areas. From spaceship-shaped greenhouses to aquarium aquaponics, from growing strawberries in old shoes to raising chickens in backyards, the book is full of interesting facts, helpful how-tos (composting, creating a teaching garden) and lots of food for thought.

With a combination of illustrations and photos, bite-size information blocks and longer narrative, it’s a book to dive into again and again.  Hadley manages to strike a easy-going, playful tone but Potatoes on Rooftops is also a call to action for kids to “Join the good food revolution.” In a foreword written by food activists Brian Cook and Barbara Emanuel, they explain: “The decisions we make today will affect the food system in the future and will have long-term consequences for humanity.”

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens

School lunch matters

With the recent publication of What’s for Lunch? I’ve been talking a lot about the potential for school lunch to transform schools and communities. I thought I’d try to express some of those possibilities in an easy-to-digest infographic ready for sharing. Please feel free to share, and let others know about the power of food.

Many thanks to Oliver Sutherns who designed and stick-handled the infographic from idea to reality!

Embed this image on your site:

<a href="http://unpackingschoollunch.wordpress.com/the-blog/school-lunch-matters/"><img src="http://unpackingschoollunch.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/school-lunch-infographic1.jpg" alt="School Lunch Matters Infographic" border="0" /></a><br />Brought to you by <a href="http://unpackingschoollunch.wordpress.com">Andrea Curtis</a>

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

Window shopping

Type books on Toronto’s Queen Street West always has fun, smart and beautiful window displays (not to mention great selection and knowledgeable staff). And while I may be biased (see bottom centre), I think this back to school window really takes the, uh, cake.  It’s hard to tell from this picture, but those floating faces—mustachio’d, long-lashed—are sandwiches. Talk about getting creative with lunch.

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch? out in the world

What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World is finally out!

It’s been a long process and I couldn’t be happier to see the book in people’s hands. I’ve had a great response already from kids and parents, educators and food activists. It’s a thrill, especially, to see young people picking it up and talking about what’s for lunch and how they can shape the food system.

I’ll be launching the book officially in September with a party and lots of fun stuff. Watch here for details. In the meantime, here are a few links and highlights of the coverage so far.

The always awesome radio host and food fighter Matt Galloway had me on Metro Morning to talk about  What’s for Lunch? just before school begins in Toronto next week. Check out the podcast here.

49th Shelf featured What’s for Lunch? in their list for Young Readers: Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2012. (I’ve also contributed a blog post to the site, which they’ll be putting up soon.)

CartoCraze, “an online geography community,” bringing maps and hands-on geography activities to teachers raved about What’s for Lunch? on their blog: “This book captivates at the first glance–beautiful photos of lunches from around the world as well as text that makes us aware of geographic and cultural influences.”

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

In (some) stores now!

It’s always an exciting day when the postie brings a package, but receiving this box of the first copies of What’s for Lunch? was especially thrilling. It looks amazing, with Yvonne Duivenvoorden’s photos and Sophie Casson’s illustrations making the pages sing.

I’ll be promoting and launching the book in the fall for back to school but in the meantime, you can find it in certain stores now (also here) or you can preorder online from here or here and have it delivered to your door. (The book will be launched in the U.S. in November.)

Watch here for details about where I’ll be talking about lunch and what kids are saying.

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

A garden library

We’re working on building our school’s food and gardening library as a resource for kids and teachers. There are tons of great books out there—picture books and nonfiction (see some of my book suggestions here). But one book that is a must-have is Kids in the Garden: Growing Plants for Food and Fun.

Filled with great project ideas (making a bird feeder and a “bee-pot”), kid-friendly recipes (rhubarb sundaes, strawberry trifle) and simple explanations about compost, growing healthy plants, watering, germination and the carbon cycle, it’s easy to read and use—for both kids and adults.

Before I started my own veggie patch, I was intimidated by all the gardening knowledge and books out there—as if I’d have to take a graduate-level course to grow a tomato plant. I’ve since discovered that many other adults feel the same way—and it’s a major barrier to getting started at school or at home. But, of course, growing food is a process like any other. You read a bit, talk a bit, learn a bit and make lots of mistakes. It’s books like this one (aimed at kids but perfect for first-time gardeners of any age) that can help all of us feel less intimidated—and in the process become active participants in taking charge of our food system.

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School gardens, What's for Lunch?