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Nourish: Food + Community

Mrs. Q | Fed Up with Lunch | January 11, 2011

Fed Up with LunchBack in November, when I was knee-deep in school lunches, I heard about the Nourish curriculum. I thought it looked interesting. Nourish contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the Nourish curriculum and watching the film, which aired on PBS in November. I happily agreed.

Things got really busy for me in December and so I just now had the opportunity to view the 30-minute film. I think it’s really good. What I like most about it is that it’s not depressing. I find that many books and movies that deal with food politics to be downright dismal. I saw Food, Inc. in September and I was profoundly changed and I’m happy I have seen that movie–it’s made me a better mom. However, I couldn’t even finish the book Omnivore’s Dilemma.

The Curriculum

The Nourish curriculum was developed by the Center for Ecoliteracy. I love that the 84-page curriculum is available for free download on the Nourish website; however, I think it is at least partially meant to be a companion for the film. I think teachers could definitely use parts of the curriculum separately from the DVD. The curriculum opens with a viewing guide with discussion questions and even simple, creative worksheets called “Nourish Notes.” Each section devoted to an activity contains a follow-up worksheet at the end. Here’s a breakdown of the curriculum:

  • Activity 1 examines the “path from farm to fork.”
  • Activity 2 takes a closer look at seasonal foods.
  • Activity 3 is all about food traditions. (I love that food culture is incorporated.)
  • Activity 4 connects food to our ecosystem. (Who else is doing that? It’s normally overlooked, but so important.)
  • Activity 5 analyzes food ads. (Ooh, I like doing that too!)
  • Activity 6 directs the students to develop a school lunch survey to give to their peers. (How cool.)
  • Nourish Action Projects–how to start up projects related to the ideas in the curriculum and an action plan worksheet.
  • Ideas from Nourish
  • Resources
  • Glossary
  • National Standards–When teachers write out lesson plans for principals to review, we have to reference state learning standards that the instruction proposes to address. The Nourish curriculum does the work in advance by supplying the exact middle school learning standards the curriculum meets.

The curriculum is a great jumping off point for teachers to start bringing these issues into the classroom, with principal approval or whatever is needed in your school.

The DVD

The Nourish DVD ($24.95) included both the half-hour PBS special on the “story of our food,” but under special features, there was an additional half-hour with more information from some of the “food celebrities” featured in the special. The film was light, but honest. Being only 30 minutes in length, I think it’s easier to find the time to watch it than a longer movie. I liked how the filmmakers incorporated some of the big names Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Anna Lappée, Bryant Terry, but that they highlighted the voices and faces of a diverse group of high school students. I loved hearing what the kids had to say about food.

The best way to describe the 30-minute program is to call it Food, Inc. Lite (now with fewer calories!). They touch on CAFOs without the gory examples, and they talk about monocultures, but then cut to examples of farms with polycultures (animals and vegetables together, no need for fertilizer, pesticides, etc.). Mind you, the terrible examples worked in Food, Inc., no doubt about it! But while I was horrified and choked up in Food, Inc., I was smiling and nodding watching Nourish.

Additionally, it was kid-friendly. I would feel comfortable showing this to middle school and high school age students, although truthfully I don’t have a ton of experience with those age groups. I could see this short film being shown in the classroom, in parts or as a whole. It’s at an introductory level, so if you have students that are aware of these issues already (say, like Birke Baehr), they might be bored. For the students at my school, I believe this would be all new information.

Did I learn anything new watching the video? The information about how we are overfishing our oceans was new to me. I didn’t know anything about bluefin tuna and how it’s overfished. Not that I’m eating a lot of that type of fish, but it’s good to become aware of these issues, that are rarely covered by the mainstream press.

I loved in the special features where Alice Waters discussed how we need to think beyond food as something we use to simply “fuel up,” but the larger environmental, even political context, in which food should be considered.

   
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