Today’s New York Times has an article headlined Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries. It’s all about the lack of success efforts are having at convincing Americans to eat more vegetables.
The primary solutions that suggested are to make them more affordable and more available.
As I was reading the article, I was reminded of what a colleague from my community organizing days once told me as he was explaining why he left Alcoholics Anonymous. He liked the twelve step program, but he thought there should be a thirteenth step dealing with the question:
“What about the distillers?”
The Times’ article doesn’t even mention the billions of dollars spent on advertising all the unhealthy food we all eat.
One person quoted in the article says:
“There is nothing you can say that will get people to eat more veggies.”
There may be nothing we can tell people, but we can certainly provide information to students on what goes into certain popular foods and learn about their advertising techniques, and ask thought-provoking questions that could promote reflection. I know, for example, our eleventh grade English teachers use a unit created by the California State University system on fast food. I’m not that clear on its content, but it might be interesting to explore students’ perspectives on fast food prior to studying the unit and then compare it with how they feel afterwards.
Are you familiar with effective curriculum that combines literacy with healthy food choice?
Our 12th grade curriculum actually has a food unit, too, “The Politics of Food.” This is the first year I’ve taught it, and there is an interesting perspective there, as well. I showed students a slide show based on 20 reader-submitted “food rules” Michael Pollan had requested on a blog called “Well.” Then I had the kids make their own, and they had some really interesting ideas. One said not to eat any ingredients that rhymed with “gross,” like fructose, sucrose, etc. Another was familiar with Dr. Oz’s suggestion not to eat portion sizes bigger than your fist. They may not be following these suggestions, but I honestly think their level of awareness is higher than it might have been a few years ago.
I can’t wait to do this lesson with my ninth grade English students.