Food....Glorious Food!

Written by Auriane Koster, Ph. D.

While we have a little bit of knowledge on a vast array of subjects, every sustainability scientist is an expert in one, or maybe two, narrower area(s). As many of you can expect, my area of expertise is in energy. However, like most sustainability scientists, there are a few other topic areas that I find fascinating and like to spend some personal time researching. That area for me is food. Having been a vegetarian on-and-off for the majority of my adult life, I have always been interested in the impact that food has on the environment and how culturally important food is. (Not to mention that, behind water, food is one of our top needs as a species.) Today’s blog is going to focus on the sustainability topic of food and how we can teach our kiddos about this interesting topic.

There are some amazing documentary films that go into the reality of the food industry. After watching Food, Inc. a few years ago, I spent two years as a vegetarian. A Place at the Table examines the impact that hunger has on culture, society, and the economy. Sushi began as a simple food sold by street vendors in Tokyo. Watch how sushi transitioned to many people’s favorite food in Sushi: The Global Catch.

Feeding hundreds of kids in about 20 minutes each day seems like an arduous task. But that is what our schools must do! What exactly goes into planning these meals? In 4th grade, Zachary Maxwell asked himself the same question. Find his answer in his 20-minute documentary Yuck: A 4th Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch, which he wrote, directed, and produced himself!

Many of us, including myself, are big fans of culinary shows and their chefs. (I know I like to go to local restaurants of chefs that I saw on television.) But these chefs are not just celebrities; many of them are taking their passion for food to make real, important change. Jamie Oliver, for example, really cares about the food we are feeding our youth. In his TED Prize video, Teach every child about food, Oliver argues that we need to teach and show our kids what is actually in the food they eat. Chicken nuggets anyone?!

Teaching kids about food doesn’t necessarily have to be gross or scary. Have your kiddos take the ‘Eat Low Carbon’ quiz, teaching them which foods have a higher carbon footprint. Learn from other schools across the country and see the cool ways they are teaching about food. The
EPA has created lesson plans for a variety of topics, including Sustainable Eating, Healthy Foods, and Community Gardens. The National Wildlife Foundation has a plethora of sustainable food curriculum. Looking for a one-stop-shop for food sustainability resources? Check out Grace’s Teaching and Educator Resources.

Want to hear an expert talk on the matter of food and what we are feeding our kiddos in schools? Then attend Kristie Middleton’s talk ‘Why MeatLess is More’ on April 4th at Changing Hands in Tempe. Not only can you hear the Senior Director of Food Policy for the Humane Society discuss her work with some of the largest school districts in the county, but you can taste some vegan "Magic Cookies" from The Dancing Chef, Mark Vanek.

Hungry yet?! As Oliver Twist sang so righteously, food really is quite glorious.