Rachael Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare Executive, and Medical Economics.
Traditional home economics classes that taught children about food and food preparation are a thing of the past in many schools. This loss can keep children and teenagers from exploring food and developing a strong, healthy relationship. A new program Food Ed. challenges to students to think about food beyond their plates.
Traditional home economics classes are a thing of the past in many schools, but a new program initiated in New York and spreading nationwide offers students a deeper look at their relationship with food.
The Food Ed. program launched about 5 years ago in several New York schools, and partners with the non-profit Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York, with high schools across the country. The program is made possible by financial support from Unilever. Stone Barns trains teachers in a 4-day program at their facility, focusing on a curriculum that is aligned to national standards and invites students to look at food in a new way. The program is offered as an elective in a number of high schools already, and that number is growing.
“Food Ed. empowers students to understand more about themselves as part of and in relationship with the broader ecosystem in order to bring about the food system they want to see-one that is in service of their own health and the health of the planet,” says Jessica Galen, a spokesperson for Stone Farms.
The interdisciplinary program goes beyond cooking to help students learn more about and appreciate the way food is grown, marketed, and consumed. Students learn about the connection food has to different cultures, the environment, and energy, according to Stone Farms. The organization says the curriculum is aligned with Common Core standards and offers both academic and hands-on components.
“Human health is inextricable from the health of soil, farms, and the food system at large. Courses like Food Ed. help create awareness of the broader issues of the food system and give participants the tools to reclaim agency over their food choices,” Galen says. “When we understand food in relationship to culture, the environment, and power, we think differently about what we eat and take more ownership of these decisions.”
Galen says Food Ed. helps students understand not only how to make food, but to appreciate the work that goes into growing and distributing food; what foods mean to different cultures; and how the way we eat impacts our health and wellbeing.
“Our students become more involved in cooking and food procurement in their households as they understand more about the food system and want to make active decisions about what they are eating,” Galen says. “They also begin to think about careers in food and agriculture, or how their careers can support a healthier food system even if they do not go into food professionally.”