New Food Day Curriculum Aims to Help Youth "Eat Real"
Teachers Invited to Observe Food Day with Healthy Lessons
Organizers of Food Day today published a curriculum for teachers to use on and around Food Day, a nationwide grassroots campaign on October 24 to encourage Americans to “eat real” and support healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way. The Food Day curriculum offers five lessons designed to teach children the importance of eating real, fresh food; cutting back on processed foods; and advocating for a healthier community. It was developed by Pamela Koch and Isobel Contento, professors at Teachers College, Columbia University, and adapted from the Linking Food and the Environment Curriculum Series.
“Teachers should consider using this curriculum not just on Food Day, but throughout the school year,” said Contento. “Each lesson has many ideas for projects that students can do, along with numerous resource for teachers. It’s important that we teach health and nutrition in the classroom along with science, math and other subjects.”
The first lesson plan in the series covers how to “eat real.” Students will learn that real foods come relatively straight from a plant or animal and have the nutrients people need to stay healthy at every age. The lesson encourages students to become smart consumers who can choose a balanced, healthy diet.
Other lessons teach students to eat mostly plants and not to eat too much, sensible practices inspired by Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. Additional inspiration for these lesson plans came from Food: Where Nutrition, Politics & Culture Meet by Deborah Katz and Mary Goodwin, as well as work by Teachers College professor Joan Gussow.
The curriculum complements a few of Food Day’s six goals:
1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2. Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4. Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
6. Support fair conditions for food and farm workers
The lesson plans are crafted for middle school students, but can easily be adapted for elementary and high school students.
“Educating young people about food and nutrition is critical if we are to prevent obesity and other diet-related diseases,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “The lessons in this curriculum will help kids distinguish between real foods that promote health from junk foods that promote disease.”
Schools are invited to celebrate Food Day in a variety of ways. Schools in Seattle, WA, are planning a special lunch menu that will highlight whole, fresh foods. Boulder, CO, schools will be observing a Meatless Monday and serving especially healthy items. School districts in Los Angeles, Tulsa, Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere also will participate. Other schools could observe Food Day by organizing vegetable tastings in kindergartens, scheduling field trips to local farms, or by planning or planting vegetable gardens.
Outside of schools, Food Day is being celebrated in diverse ways by health departments, colleges, restaurants, and others. In Little Rock, AR, the mayor’s office is teaming up with the Clinton Foundation, Heifer International, and others to build and distribute raised-bed gardens for schools and individuals living in food deserts (communities with poor access to fresh, healthful foods). The University of California Hastings Law School and UCSF Consortium on Law, Science, and Health Policy are organizing a conference on food deserts, including at prisons. Food Day organizers in Savannah, GA are expecting 15,000 people at an event on the Saturday before Food Day in Mother Matilda Beasley Park. Hundreds of other Food Day events can be found on an interactive map at FoodDay.org.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).