|Bancroft ES, a public school in Arlington, VA, has a group of parents working to bring more farm fresh produce tastes and education to kids!|
Today's Washington Post featured this article on placing more salad bars in the DC Public Schools. This got me thinking all over again about the cart versus wheel theories revolving around empowering people to eat better. Does the food access come first? Or the education? In my (extremely limited, non-scientifical or research based) experience, some education needs to come first. (Ideally, they'd happen simultaneously.) Especially with kids, experimenting with new foods just because they're placed in front of them (or labeled as "healthy") isn't typically a magic bullet. And having just finished Jonathan Bloom's American Wasteland, I have shivers just thinking about a whole bar's worth of fresh, local vegetables ending up in a trash can, because kids are wary of the new choices.
[Please Note: This is not a dig on local school districts. I get it. They have limited resources and limited time. I taught in the public schools for almost a decade. I know the pressure on test scores is immense, and it's very difficult to integrate a nutrition program into an already packed schedule.]
That said, parents, teachers, administrators and motivated citizens are making change on a micro-level at schools all over the country. Where a system-wide change might be difficult, on a school-by-school basis making headway is possible. I wish I could visit more of the school gardens, observe more nutrition classes and attend more school "food days" and tastings as I travel around the country, but it's often more difficult to schedule these than a meeting with a large organization. Still, the work of the committed people in schools is inspiring, and I try to absorb as much as I can.
Want to get started in your own neighborhood? Maybe you can be the factor that encourages kids to dig into that produce-laden bar instead of just walking by it!
Here are some resources:
- Whole Foods Foundation school garden grants: Learn how to apply for a grant to start a project at your own neighborhood school.
- Food Corps: A new Americorp based program that places recent college grads in schools to help foster nutrition/garden/healthy eating programs. (Check out this Time Magazine article on the program, too.)
- Ecoliteracy has a solid school curriculum called "Nourish" and a resource guide for making food changes in schools called "Rethinking School Lunch". You can also learn more about how school are applying the Nourish curriculum in California here.
- Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard site has lesson plans and various other tools for school gardening.
- What's on Your Plate? is a fabulous documentary for kids/teens that lends itself to a whole host of school-centered activities.
- The Food Studies Institute, run by Dr. Antonia Demas, has a great curriculum called Food is Elementary that is perfect for grades K-5.
- The nationwide Farm to School network is different in every area but could possibly be of use in your city. Visit their parent site to find a branch in your neighborhood.
- Michael Pollan has a kids version of The Omnivore's Dilemma that is the perfect jumping off point for a discussion/study with middle school aged kids or teens.
- Also, Michelle Obama's initiative Let's Move can help to match you with a chef in your city to start a cooking program at your school.
- Dr. Marion Nestle also posted a resource collection on her Food Politics blog back in July. She has a few overlaps with mine and some new links.
Know of other great programs or resources? Please let me know in the comments!