Focus On Kids
August 24, 2009
There are many people working to reshape our food system with a bottom up approach-by which I mean starting with children. Programs like Farm to School, Shape Up Somerville, The Food Project, Edible Schoolyard (watch their great video) and those offered by Land’s Sake Organic all work to improve the health of children by teaching them about the health of the land. Michelle Obama has also hopped on the band wagon. She invites children to the brand new, organic garden at the white house to pick and cook vegetables. This is a great initiative that we desperately need. Not only is she working to give children the knowledge to feed themselves (that is, teaching them how to cook), but she is also showing the children the importance of the garden.
We must teach children that fertility from the soil allows vegetables to be grown and that tending to a garden is demanding and rewarding. When children touch the earth, pull vegetables from it with their hands, and learn to prepare them, they will embrace the process. They will take pride in eating fresh, local vegetables.
The understanding that food comes from soil and from labor is most crucial within the school. In a country where school lunch is composed of foods that do not resemble the vegetables or animals from which they were made, it is no wonder why many grow up with no respect for high quality food and why obesity rates are soaring.
At the same time, the school is the most appropriate place to teach children this connection. School is a learning environment where we hope our children will learn how to run sustainable and productive lives. What is more crucial to sustainability or more productive than producing one’s own food? What is a more valuable lesson than learning how to sustain yourself?
Furthermore, schools need more food than any other industry. And the quality of that food directly feeds back to the quality of the student. Instead of allowing children to believe that day after day, lunch after lunch their food comes from some mystical, bottomless place, let us teach them that it indeed must be grown and that doing so requires resources. School gardens would not only do this, but would vastly improve the nutritional quality of the lunches using the vegetables grown by the students themselves.
Students at Augustana College have taken this to heart. The Augie Acres supplement dining hall food and supply an on-campus farm stand. In fact, garden and farm projects in universities are are spreading across the country.