Food and Health at Everett Middle School in San Francisco

School nurse Kathleen Ward developed a month-long food literacy unit for every classroom at Everett Middle School in San Francisco.

As the school nurse at Everett Middle School in San Francisco, I am committed to increasing the food literacy of our students. Many of our students began the school year thinking that the only snacks they can afford are the ones from the corner store—mainly chips and soda or other high sugar drinks.

Using the Nourish: Food + Community video as an entry point, I created a month-long unit that was taught in every classroom of our school. Because of Nourish, students now understand more about food marketing, the importance of eating locally and seasonally, and the health benefits of whole foods.

The heart of Nourish is found in this quote from author Michael Pollan, who appears in the film: “Food is not just fuel. Food is about family, food is about community, food is about identity. And we nourish all of those things when we eat well.” During our Nourish unit, we shared stories of food in our families and how it brings us together as a community.

Our school valued the Spanish subtitles available on the Nourish DVD as we have a large “New Comer” population at Everett. In some classes, we extended the viewing experience by drawing upon the collection of Nourish Short Films. It was powerful to see Dr. Nadine Burke—the pediatrician to some of our students—underscore the consequences of unhealthy eating and the life-long impact of such choices.

As a result of our inquiry, students now make connections between what they are putting into their mouths and their subsequent moods, behaviors, academic performance, and feeling of well-being.

One of my favorite concepts–and one which became an “Ah-ha” moment for our students–was the idea of food merchandising and product placement in stores, whether the local corner market or a large brand supermarket. When students understood more about the effect of advertising on food choices, their eyes widened with this new knowledge. In the process, they gained a new sense of personal agency. It was wonderful to watch this awakening unfold.

As an educator, I live by the adage “When you know better, you do better.” There is no greater health and community benefit than helping a student to understand their intimate relationship to food and the food system. This is Nourish in action.

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