Principals, Teachers And Parents: Five Ways To Teach Kids Where Food Comes From
An alarming number of children do not know where food comes from, and the problem is not limited to American children. Children and young adults from Australia and the United Kingdom don't realize that milk comes from cows, bananas from trees and bacon from pigs. If you work in a school and you're concerned about this information gap in the youth of today, there are things you can do about it.
Here are five ideas to help introduce children to the background of their food beyond the grocery store:
1. Plant a school garden
To show children where their food comes from, let them get their hands dirty in a school garden. Children who haven't gardened before will delight in the sight of food growing out of plants in their garden beds, and this activity can also pique their interest in trying new fruits or vegetables, a must in the age of childhood obesity.
According to a number of studies, the benefits of a school garden are multifold – they help students respect the environment, they promote working in groups and they improve behavior.
2. Plan a field trip to the fishing pond
In addition to taking field trips to museums and zoos, schedule some field trips out into the wild, and let kids catch their own food. To plan a successful group fishing trip, look for donors who are willing to provide fishing poles to the students, or if you have excess funding in your physical education department, try to run the purchase through that department and turn the fishing expedition into a PE unit.
Alternatively, skip the expensive rods, and explore cheap alternatives. You can have students fish the old fashioned way with a stick, a bit of line and a few cheap hooks and worms, or you can make simple fishing nets out of old nylon stockings and metal hangers.
If you have vegans in your classroom, plan alternatives to fishing. For example, a lesson on local flora with a foraging trip is a great idea.
3. Revamp your lunch program
When kids spend their days eating packaged food, it's no wonder they don't know or care about the source of their meals. If your school lunch program is currently shoveling prepackaged, tasteless meals into students, consider revamping the school lunch program into something healthier.
A new generation of school lunches seeks to be healthy and local. To implement one of these programs, you can hire a specialist in school nutrition services from a place like New Horizon Foods to help you overhaul your existing offerings, or you can just source food from local organic vendors, find healthy recipes and even get the kids involved in the process.
4. Get the kids cooking
Over the last few decades as kids have forgotten where food comes from, fewer and fewer schools have been offering classes like home economics. Once a staple of education, this class is now hard to find. Some argue that the absence of home ec in the average curriculum has caused a rise in mindless eating and a decline in home cooked meals.
Even if you cannot add home ec back to the roster, get kids cooking without it. Create a rotating schedule where kids get to come into the school cafeteria and have an instrumental hand in making dishes.
Cooking doesn't necessarily teach kids about where food is sourced, but it helps them to understand the basics of what comprises different dishes. For example, kids can learn that butter comes from mixing or churning heavy cream, or they can learn what ingredients go into bread or that soup doesn't just come from a can.
5. Focus on nutrition education
In addition to gardening, fishing, foraging, eating local and cooking, students should see and read facts about nutrition and where food comes from. Create special units on food, hang posters around the school and focus on educating kids about nutrition. Ultimately, it will help students to be healthier, more knowledgeable adults.