Bring Back Gardening and Higher Nutritional Standards in Schools

Plan, Plant, Cultivate, Harvest, and CelebrateThe traditional school year was designed so students would have the summer off to help their families plant and harvest their crops.  And here we, are generations later,  with school menus consisting of little more than corn dogs, pizza and chicken nuggets.  There is no evidence of anything that has been farmed or harvested in sight.  Sadly, most students do not know (or even care) where their food has come from.

I am grateful for forward thinking school leaders who recognize that this is a crisis and embrace the fundamentals of nutrition, fitness and gardening in their curriculum.  I came across this article by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahla year ago in Experience Life Magazine and it caught my attention.  So much so, that I clipped it from the magazine and will refer to it from time to time because it inspires when developing classes for Fitness University and developing the  Environment and Gardening curriculum that is part of our Teaching Safari program.

School lunches are not just “gross” as my friends and I used to refer to it when we were young; school lunches are unacceptable and our culture has to change on a mass scale.  To prove this point, check out The School Lunch Project in which a teacher calls attention to the terrible standards of food that we give to our children.  Each day, the teacher photographs and eats the over-processed and unhealthy lunches served to students in her school.

In the article, Rethinking School Lunch, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl points out our bland addiction to corn dogs, tater-tots, chicken nuggets and pizza  harvesting bad food habits and a future of obesity-related maladies, from diabetes to heart disease.

She calls a return to teaching children how to garden and cook and to ask questions about where their food comes from.  The Edible Schoolyard is a shining example of a successful gardening program in a California middle school that is creating a food revolution of sorts:

This near revolution, called the Edible Schoolyard, has been taking place in Berkeley, Calif., since 1995, and it’s led by that doyenne of the organic movement, chef and author Alice Waters. Waters’s new book, Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea (Chronicle Books, 2008), details the journey she has been making with her young charges. It’s simply fascinating….

Today, 300 middle-school students visit this 1-acre garden every week as part of their science curriculum. They study plant structure, decomposition and other aspects of botany. There’s also a kitchen class — a sort of new-fangled home-ec — where students work in groups of 10 to harvest garden vegetables and cook them
into lunches.

None of this is new, strictly speaking. Gardening was a core part of American school curriculums before World War II, when growing food to eat was seen as a necessary part of life. But factory-made food has become so common that Waters and her compatriots in the Berkeley school system were forced to create “an edible education.” They argued that a garden really does fit into the test-taking academic mission of a school: Journaling in the garden can be part of English classes, while studying (and eating!) vegetables fits into the health and nutrition curriculum.

Click here to read Rethinking School Lunch and be sure to check out Edible Schoolyard to learn how you can bring this food revolution to your school cafeteria.

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