- Author: Susana C. Bruzzone-Miller, RDN
What is healthy food? Where does the food I eat come from? How is the planet affected by the fast food industry? What strategies do food companies use to encourage me to buy their food products? Dara Stork, Language Arts teacher at Briggs School in Santa Paula, explored these essential questions and more with her 8th graders.
As part of a fall study unit, Mrs. Stork incorporated Common Core State Standards in reading and writing with studying our food system. The students read Chew on This, by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. The book is written for youth and critiques the fast food industry but also delves into production, labor conditions and negative health effects of the fast food industry. Additionally, they studied the history of fast food in our country as well as the role that media, advertising and big companies play in influencing the kinds of food people eat, especially children. Stork employed various learning activities to study these pertinent topics and assigned culminating projects that included debating for and against fast food, writing a business letter to the school district board requesting a functional kitchen for their school to replace the current frozen-food based cafeteria and/or an edible schoolyard for their campus.
As a grand finale, the 72 students walked across the street to HAREC for a day on the farm. The education team prepared hands-on activities that supported Stork's essential questions exploring local food—food mile discussions and harvesting vegetables to take home; global food—origin of food and food packaging activities; sustainable food—planting seeds, learning about soil and composting; healthy food—nutrition and making a delicious farm fresh persimmon salad. Additionally, the 8th graders participated in activities that explored Ventura County agriculture and Ag related careers.
Overwhelmingly, the standout activities included harvesting, cooking and tasting healthy foods. The cooking lesson exposed many of the students to Fuyu persimmons for the first time. By a show of hands, most voted that given the choice, they would pick healthy persimmon salad over Hot Cheetos. Mrs. Stork and HAREC educators counts this as a great success. Teen leaders from the Human Services Academy at Santa Paula High School assisted with educational activities during the field trip. This new collaboration with Briggs and Santa Paula High will be replicated next fall.