Eco-Living Magazine

Schools, Food, and Educating for Sustainability

Posted on the 25 June 2014 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev
School garden

There’s been a fair bit of news lately about the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” Some want to postpone the implementation of the legislation ostensibly to provide more time to get vendors on board and make sure there are enough options. It is understandable the schools are facing reduced student participation now that they have cut back on sugary “milk” drinks and other food products. Ultimately a school’s job is to educate – and at some level keep children safe. Providing unhealthy food accomplished neither. A few years ago celebrity chef Jaime Oliver ventured into the school kitchen and found scratch cooking to be nearly impossible. The idea of “whole” ingredients has became anathema to school meals before I was a student when chalupas and “pizza” were served to hungry hordes of kids.

Earlier this month there was a story about MUSE School in Malibu, CA going vegan with their menu. I visited the school a few years back and wrote about how they were growing a significant portion of their food on site. Regardless of what one thinks about their decision, it presents a learning opportunity that is important in schools. Ideally, I would prefer students to do the research, stake a position, and defend their viewpoint as to what the school ought to do in terms of the food they serve and its impact. There is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the food system, historical/anthropological evidence of what humans ate, caloric and nutritional needs, and how the body digests different energy sources. I try to see the educational value in these types of situations. Transparency is something that students learn – either a school is or it isn’t. Coming to expect institutions to divulge their decision making process is not likely as the system is currently arranged. However, this is not to say there can’t be progress made toward this goal.

An informed electorate is necessary to perpetuate democratic society. Beginning in schools, where decision making can be opened up to the broader group, to include parents, teachers, students, and administrators, we can start to model a better way forward. This is not to suggest that administrator cede control, but rather that sustainable society needs to have a multitude of perspectives. Students should be involved in the process. They should be in the kitchens at schools helping to make “real food” and researching sustainable options, then presenting their findings to committees that seriously consider their input.

Maybe I’m fooling myself – or maybe I’m on to something.

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