Sunday, October 27, 2013

Food Education and the Food School Environment

The talk I attended on Food Day was Food Education and the Food School Environment.

The main point I learned from this talk/panel is that food education is really important when it comes to food choices children make. 

Food education can be about many topics, including Food Literacy, Farming, Nutrition, and Cooking. However, when it comes to making healthy food choices, Food Literacy is one of the most important things, along with cooking.

The California Food Literacy Center offers community food education classes. They reported that at the beginning of their course, almost none of the children wanted to eat the fruits or vegetables. By the end of their 13 week curriculum, 92% of the kids liked eating the fruits and vegetables.

I was amazed by how children are not exposed to fruits and vegetables at such an early age. Food habits develop as children are young. Most of the time, children eat what their parents eat. If parents don't introduce the foods to their children at an early age or if the parents don't eat these foods, it can have an impact on the food choices the kids will make. Food habits are hard to change as people grow older. However, it's not just about the food choices the parents make but also their peers as well.

There was this one incident Amber Stott, the founder of the California Food Literacy Center, told us about, how peers can influence food choices. There was this one little boy who was in the 2nd year of the program. There was this other little girl who was just starting her first year in that program. They were talking and the little girl said that she hates vegetables and won't eat them. In response, the little boy said, "I love vegetables!" and stuffed a mouthful of raw spinach into his mouth and started eating it. It was so cute! After that, the little girl started picking up a piece of veggies and tried it. It's hard to believe that peers can really influence the choices you make!

Kirk Bergstrom, the Executive Director of Nourish, was also there as a panelist. His program and the California Food Literacy Center's program are pretty much similar. It is about educating children about food and nutrition. However, Nourish also focuses on the farming and agriculture. They have materials in the Spanish language, since some of the children work on the farm when they are not in school. It's about connecting to nature.

The last panelist was Gail Feenstra and she talked about the Farm to School movement. The school budget is really tight and yet, we want to serve healthier school meals to children. The limited equipment limits how much cooking from scratch cooks can do. Most of the equipment is used for heating up food. The ingredients can be a problem too as well as the incentive for farmers to want to bring these foods to the schools. It costs more money to regulate it. On top of that, children don't normally like the meals the school serves.

Cooks really love to cook but they are limited to what they can do. However, the cooks can be a resource as well. They can help educate the kids. They can hold cooking lessons. If they talk to the Nutrition Director, they may be able to cook food items that are not traditionally in school menus.

One example Feenstra gave was that a cook wanted to make her own burritos to serve as breakfast for the kids. She was excited about how the schools were promoting healthier school meals and cooking. Now, normally, most kids don't participate in school breakfast. However, when she made these burritos, there was a whole line of kids wanting to eat these burritos! They were freshly made burritos that she normally makes at home!

We have to make healthier food choices sound appealing. Not only that, they have to be educated too.

The panelist all mentioned the words "Food Literacy".

What does this mean to you? 

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