At Midwest Food Connection we inspire kids to eat well. On the surface that looks like preparing spring salads and wild rice in the classroom. Tasting global fruits and discovering new flavors. Hearing a story about grains around the world and learning about their importance as a staple food in many cuisines. At a deeper level, however, inspiring kids to eat well means teaching them how to be good caretakers. Because when we eat well, we practice taking care of our bodies, our communities, and the earth.
Food lies at the center of our social interactions, cultural traditions, and the health and wealth of our communities. It also exposes our relationship with the land and how we relate to nature when farming. So when we teach our “Eat Local” lesson, our students see how supporting local farmers gives money back to our community. In our “Gifts from Many Cultures” unit, kids celebrate how immigrant and refugee populations have brought delicious food traditions to Minnesota. Through tracing fertilizer run-off down the Mississippi River in our “What is Organic?” lesson, kids learn to choose sustainably-grown foods to protect our water. And in our spring unit, kids grow their own plants and practice caring for young seedlings.
Our students live out the answers to questions like: How do we care for our bodies by choosing healthy foods? How do we care for one another by embracing diverse cuisines? How do we care for our community by supporting local farmers? How do we care for the earth by conserving food? How do we best care for plants and grow our own food?
For many kids, food is an object of contention. In the cafeteria, home-cooked dishes in packed lunches that “smell funny” are often made fun of. Around the dinner table, food is forced. How many of us grew up with threats like “you can’t leave the dinner table until you finish your peas”? When we show kids how food connects us to our bodies, each other, and the earth, we transform food from an object of contention to an empowering opportunity to practice care. Children rise to this responsibility. They deeply understand the concepts of respect and justice. Just think of the number of times you’ve heard a kid say “it’s not fair!” At Midwest Food Connection, we put the onus on children to make respectful and fair choices surrounding their food. And in so doing, we empower the next generation to create a caring world through the food that connects us all.
Donate to our October campaign, Bite By Bite, to help us teach more children how to become good caretakers.