This photo was taken in my backyard for our family Canadian Thanksgiving celebration in October 2021.
When it comes to sustainability, food is a topic most people can relate to and understand. We all eat, and some of us grow gardens, cook, bake and think a lot about food. And, over the last number of decades, our food options have exploded, allowing us many more choices than our grandparents or great-grandparents imagined possible.
Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, says that "eaters have real choices now, and those choices have real consequences, for our health and the health of the land and the health of our food culture." So true!
We know that what we eat affects our bodies and our local ecosystems, and most people are aware of the link between what we eat (or don't) and climate change (did you know, for instance, that approximately 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions each year is related to agriculture, and that beef has an enormously high carbon footprint?). Yet it can seem overwhelming to understand how to approach our plates and palates with a more sustainable lens.
As teachers, we can learn alongside our students if we bring issues of food sustainability into our classrooms. Even the youngest learners can explore what it means to eat in a healthy and responsible way, and how to grow simple plants in a class or school garden. Older learners can unpack complex issues such as root causes of unfair food distribution and the impact of food waste on our climate. In any discipline, there are many ways to engage our students in these conversations, to literally bring food sustainability to the table in our learning environments.
To get started, check out the interview below with Eric Jakah, a young leader in a community called Vumilia in the Rift Valley, Kenya. Eric has been at the forefront of helping his community grow food, and he is exploring new techniques such as aquaponics and no-till agriculture as solutions for the future.
Below the embedded video are links to provide some starting points for planning curriculum around food and sustainability, too. Because I love stories, I have included some links for wonderful books (for readers of all ages) that can serve as a foundation for units of study.
I hope these resources are helpful! :)
Resources for teaching about sustainable food:
Younger learners (PK - grade 6):
* www.readerstoeaters.com/our-books?category=Garden (a wonderful collection of picture books about food and gardening)
* www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/14431165-potatoes-on-rooftops (a fabulous children's book about urban farming and more)
* www.tomsofmaine.com/good-matters/helping-hands/teaching-kids-sustainable-food-practices (some simple things anyone can do)
Older learners (grade 7 - 12):
* www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/ (Barbara Kingsolver's blog and book about sustainable gardening)
* michaelpollan.com/books/ (Michael Pollan has written many non-fiction books about food; these make a great starting point for high school learners to rethink what's on their plates)
* gdswithmrslav.weebly.com/unit-3-food--farming.html (As part of a class I taught for several years called Global Development Studies, I developed this online unit about food and farming; don't worry about completing the assignments listed on this page - unless you want to! - but check out the videos and links. There is a lot to learn here).
Also, a big shoutout to my good friend Anthony Reich, the Director of Global Citizenship at Dulwich College Pudong in Shanghai. At his school, they produce a sustainability newsletter each week and this week the topic is Sustainable Gardening, a wonderful connection to these ideas. Here is a copy of his excellent newsletter (which contains even more resources!).