After many years working in youth development and garden-based education, I just received a degree from Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Agriculture, Food and Environment. And after immersing myself in the science and policy of all things food related- from the 2008 Farm Bill, to soil and water science, renewable energy, nutrition facts and food pyramids, farmers markets, food stamps and apple orchards - for two years, I find myself doing exactly what I was doing before my educational endeavor: youth development and garden-based education. Except this time it's in Texas, I am in a public school, and I have a slightly more sophisticated perspective on food and its role in the lives and education of American children.
So here I am, to write about - vent, process and share - my experiences with food and schools, to see if we're making any progress (whatever that means). There is undoubtedly a growing political and public dialogue about our food system and the nutritional value of the meals we consume. There are countless, passionate and dedicated individuals, organizations and public servants fighting to make changes to our food system. My advisor, Kathleen Merrigan, from the AFE program is Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under Obama! If that's not a sign of progress, then I don't know what is!
But what is the impact on our nation's children? I know that I - a relatively affluent, white woman who was raised by liberal parents and liberal schools in Massachusetts (or Massatushetts as I more often hear it called around here) - have better access to larger and more diverse farmers markets, to organic beauty products and clothes in Whole Foods, to locally produced eggs and beer, to an ever-widening community of people who think just like me and who love to garden and cook and eat delicious foods that are healthy. However, I also know that the fifth graders that I worked with this spring in Cambridge, Ma, and the middle schoolers that I work with here in Austin, are not having the same experiences with food. And I'm going to write about it. Maybe others will contribute their own experiences, and we can take a look at what's changing, what's not, and maybe we'll come up with some more ideas about how to change this whole wretched food system.
Disclaimer. Yes, I took two semester of Stats at Tufts. Yes, I understand the value of quantitative, randomized, control trials. But, no, I do not share the love of statistics of many of my fellow Jumbos and I believe in the value of qualitative observations, however small and subjective they may be. I was an anthropology major during my undergrad years after all. So I present to you a biased, individual perspective on schools and food. Enjoy! And please contribute.