Now that school is back in session, kids are being immersed in science, math and reading lessons, but what about food lessons? Food blogger Jamie Oliver, who has in recent months attacked the beef industry for lean finely textured beef, says that elementary school students in the U.S. only receive an average of 3.4 hours of food education each year. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic in our country! Our kids aren’t getting the information they need!
The best place to start in food education for kids is to go back to the beginning and teach them about agriculture and where their food comes from. Food Tank, a food think tank, has compiled a list of 14 programs all over the globe that educate kids about agriculture.
To name a few, the list includes: the Edible Schoolyard Project, which teaches kids how to garden in California; Farm Africa, which offers farm training for rural Kenyan youth; The Farming Kindergarten, which offers Vietnamese kids food and a safe outdoor playground; and Green Youth Farm, which hires Chicago-based youth to manage an organic farm. Read about others here.
I think one of the best and most popular programs is the National Agriculture In The Classroom program, which has individual tiers in each state. I was excited when the South Dakota program selected my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf,” to be part of its curriculum in 2012.
Basically, any farmer or rancher who wants to participate can simply call their state’s program manager and request a packet that they can take into a school. In South Dakota, for example, the packet comes with a copy of the book, a responsibility chart for the kids, a sketch for the kids to color, and a few other activities that get them thinking about ranch life, beef and how to live life following, “the cowboy way.”
I believe education in our schools is so important, and I’m always working to line up book readings and lessons in schools when I travel. It can be tricky to get into schools sometimes because the teachers are required to stick to specific lesson plans in order to meet government requirements for testing. However, once you get into a school and talk about your life on the ranch, the teachers seem to really appreciate the lesson offered, and I feel it leaves a lasting impression on the kids.
Have you participated in an ag in the classroom visit? If so, how did it go? How did the kids like it? Do you agree that education of our young people is a critical component of promoting agriculture? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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