An article came out in International Herald Tribune (31/10/2012) on the effort of the US Dept. of Agriculture’s efforts to set new standards for the nation’s school lunches to “foster good health and counter the epidemic of obesity afflicting youngsters”. The title of the article is: “Kids push healthy plates aside in U.S. schools”, and the reason for this, according to the article is that parents need to involve children more in grocery shopping and meal preparation ”If they’ve made it, they’ll be more likely to eat it.” AND “schools too have work to do. When children learn about foods in the classroom and have hands-on experience with them, they are more likely to eat them in the lunchroom.”
We know we’re on the right lines with this approach. Engaging children in thinking about food, involves talking about senses. Our senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and even sound are all important when thinking about food. If we’re going to talk about broccoli, then let’s have broccoli in the room, so the students can see, touch, smell and then, at lunch time, taste it. If we’re going to talk about processed foods, let’s also look at the processed foods and try and figure out why these all too often get chosen over the healthier option. But, for many children the food that they eat has already been prepared. The onions diced, the carrots chopped, the leeks sliced and so identifying foods can not be taken for granted and getting to grips with food groups, proteins and carbohydrates is only going to be meaningful if we unpack the grocery bag and use that to explain a food pyramid. This hands-on approach makes the learning much less abstract and helps reconnect the children with the food that provides them with the nutrients we need to survive.
Which is just what we are doing in our “You Are What You Eat” project.