Did you know that September is Food Literacy Month?

Food Literacy Month was established on September 18th, 2012 when the California Legislature signed Resolution No. 161. As stated therein:

“The objective of food literacy awareness month will be to promote food education, inspire food choices that are good for people and good for the planet, encourage parental involvement, and motivate community wide support.”

Food Literacy is multidimensional concept. I first came across the term “food literacy” when researching gardening and cooking instruction. In the article, From Nutrients to Nurturance: A Conceptual Introduction to Food Wellbeing, authors Block, et al. propose a need to move away from a paradigm of “food as health” to one that respects the interrelated personal, social, and communal aspects of food.

When I searched more broadly for resources related to “food literacy,” all roads led to Amber Stott, Founder and Chief Food Genius at The Food Literacy Center. Stott was instrumental in making Food Literacy Month become reality. The goal of the initiative was to bring increased awareness to the nation’s obesity epidemic. Today, the Food Literacy Center tackles this challenge head on by providing cooking instruction to school children in Sacramento, where more than 40% of youth are considered to be overweight or obese.

Stott’s perspective was instrumental to my data analysis during a yearlong case study of a third grade teacher who integrated cooking into the classroom. By carefully documenting this teachers’ alternative approach to nutrition education, I found that culinary arts instruction rivals gardening as a robust intervention. The focal teacher, Donna (pseudonym) not only created a classroom community centered on cuisine, but she also influenced students’ knowledge, habits, and skills related to food preparation and consumption. In other words, she influenced her students food literacy.

Farm-to-Cafe 2016 Poster_Final.jpg
Findings from a yearlong case study of cooking instruction in a third grade classroom reveals many facets of food literacy knowledge. 

Unfortunately, few teachers feel justified integrating gardening or cooking in substantial ways. Although schools in the United States feed more than 30 million children every day, [1] food education is rarely a significant portion of the institutionalized day–to–day curriculum in schools. Noting this gap, Weaver-Hightower (2011) strongly suggests that educators investigate food education more fully in order to elevate food from an overlooked aspect of formal schooling to “an integral component of the ecology of education” (p.16).

To celebrate food literacy month, I challenge you to adopt one new practice in your own eating or nurture a child’s food wellbeing by integrating cooking or gardening into the curriculum. For more ideas, download a resource from the Food Literacy Month Toolkit or watch this featured video.

[1] School Lunch Fact Sheet retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp

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