The latest issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine has a great article about teaching food justice in schools. It features two of my students and an interview with me about trying to incorporate “big ideas” about food into nutrition education. Here’s a preview:
Introducing students to food justice principles begins in the classroom. Take Balboa High School health teacher Chris Pepper. His ninth-grade health curriculum couples nutrition basics with the study of food origins and preparation. He shows Food, Inc., which gets students talking about animal welfare, industrial agriculture and food workers’ rights. His students also research prominent food justice leaders and organizations.
“Teaching about food justice helps make nutrition classes more engaging,” says Pepper. “Learning the story of where our food comes from is really interesting, and it involves some real critical thinking about how our world works,” he adds.
I love the movie Super Size Me, and my students always respond well to this story of a man who eats nothing but McDonald’s for a month — and the horrible things that happen to his body because of it. Two of the most affecting scenes in the movie, however, don’t revolve around Morgan Spurlock‘s growing midsection.
In this first clip (included as a bonus feature on the DVD of the film), Spurlock shows what happens to a selection of McDonald’s sandwiches and fries when he leaves them out, unrefrigerated, for several weeks. The results are pretty incredible.
In the next clip, Spurlock uses animation to show how Chicken McNuggets make their way to a fast food tray. It’s a great distillation of the problems with industrial agriculture and processed food in less than 90 seconds.
When I teach about nutrition, I inevitably get questions from some teenagers about becoming vegetarian or vegan. I think it’s great that students are thinking about their own diets enough to even consider this switch, and I like to have some resources close at hand to help steer them toward healthy choices. After all, if they’re avoiding meat but gorging on Pringles and Pepsi, they won’t be doing their bodies any favors. In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, here are some great places for meat-free teens to find support and ideas.
KidsHealth has a great article on its site all about becoming a vegetarian. They do a great job of explaining the different types of veggie-centered diets and give some advice about how to deal with different health concerns people might face as they move away from meat.
Veggie Teens is a terrific site written by a teenager for other teens. Elyse May, the 17-year-old who created the site, has a whole cookbook full of recipes and suggestions, and she blogs regularly with new recipes and tips.
Harvard University has a meatless version of the Healthy Eating Plate complete with recipes created by esteemed cookbook writer Molly Katzen. The selections include delicious-sounding meals like Thai Eggplant Salad with Coconut Tofu Strips, Garlic-Braised Greens, and Roasted Squash with Pomegranate.
Teens who are vegetarians and athletes sometimes have some special concerns about how to get enough protein and calories, or what to eat for pre- and post-game snacks. Those concerns are addressed well in this article from the Vegetarian Resource Group.
If those sites aren’t quite enough, take a look at this 8-page guide to being a vegetarian teen from the California Department of Public Health, or head to your local library or bookstore and check out one of the many fabulous books on this subject.