Nourish: Two Thumbs Up!

Dr. Susan Rubin | Dr. Susan’s Better School Food Blog | November 11, 2010

Better School FoodWhile Twinkie diets and Sarah Palin’s stance on cookies in schools are grabbing headlines these days, I choose not to go down that path. I learned from personal experience as an “Angry Mom” how the media works. Sensationalism sells, but it’s often an empty message that is easily forgotten.

We’ve got real work to do in healing our broken school food system. It’s not smart to invest energy in polarizing topics that ultimately don’t help our kids or the planet.

Fortunately, there are some really good projects out there that can raise the food IQ of both students and teachers. A deeper understanding of our food system and its connection to everything we do will create a meaningful positive change in the school food environment. WorldLink, a nonprofit educational organization, is behind a bold new food literacy initiative called Nourish. The purpose of Nourish is to open a meaningful conversation about food and sustainability that encourages citizen engagement, particularly among young people and families.

In partnership with one of my favorite organizations, the Center for Ecoliteracy, they have developed and released a well thought out middle school curriculum. You can download the curriculum by clicking here. The Center for Ecoliteracy has other great resources such as their Rethinking School Lunch Guide and a recent book: Smart by Nature.

Here is what I love about the Nourish middle school curriculum.

  • Each of the six class activities can be used as a stand alone curriculum or taught as a unit. It’s flexible enough for parents to teach as part of an afterschool program. Even scout leaders could utilize it.
  • It ties in beautifully with social studies, science, and English. This is what I’ve been saying all along has to happen! We cannot plop the food issue into a small nutrition segment of health class. Food is so much more than calories, fat, and carbs. There is a huge story behind the food, and faux food, you put in your mouth!
  • By learning about the food system and the different paths that food takes to get to your table, students learn complex systems thinking, which is far superior to memorizing facts and spitting them back out on a standardized test.
  • It’s not boring! Imagine using Google Earth and Google Maps to find monocrop farms and CAFOs that are visible from outer space. What a cool way to grab a kid’s attention while learning about how monocrops impact the surrounding environment.
  • It gives students the critical thinking skills that will empower them for the rest of their lives. We may wait for years and years for legislation that limits junk food advertising to kids. In the meantime, this curriculum enables students to analyze food advertisements. When kids start asking the right questions about product advertising, they are less likely to get suckered into buying them.
  • Most importantly, this curriculum includes tools for kids to ask the right questions about what’s in the cafeteria and supplies them with a school lunch survey to get this conversation started. When well informed students start taking an active role in school lunch reform, that is when we are going to see a huge paradigm shift in school food. This curriculum can prepare them to do it.

The curriculum is consistent with national curriculum standards and benchmarks. I hope teachers across the country will take advantage of this wonderful feature, too.

In addition to this curriculum, Nourish: Food + Community is also a PBS special movie. Check with your local listing to find when it is being broadcast.

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