I’m volunteer teaching this summer at the program for at-risk students at my school. This is a really great program that engages students for 6 weeks in the summer over several consecutive years. I’m teaching “computers” one day per week. The last two weeks have the theme of “food”; oh boy, I can teach a LOT here….except, I can’t.
My beliefs about food and eating are not particularly mainstream. They are certainly not common practice in the cultures of the children I’m teaching. I am choosing a whole food lifestyle, eating locally and organic whenever possible, and trying to avoid processed foods. I’ve explored veganism and I’m currently exploring paleo or ancestral eating to try to reduce my stomach issues and to focus on locally grown food. I have removed most grains and legumes from my diet. Who am I to say that rice and beans are not appropriate for a balanced diet???
I know full well that the USDA “My Plate” resources emphasize disproportionate amounts of grains and dairy as well as giving no deference to local or organic foods. I know that the former food pyramid, now the plate, is heavily influenced by CAFO lobbies. But is it my responsibility to teach this concept to small children? Ones I will only see 5 times in six weeks?Is it better to teach them to avoid sugar and junk food and help them build a “balanced” plate than to do nothing?
I hope so because that is what I did. I used resources from BrainPop which included vocabulary, quizzes about choices, opportunities to write a meal plan, and draw fruits and veggies. For the older kids, I used My Plate to give examples of choices and provide portion size information. And finally, we played the game Blast Off which really opened some eyes to building a balanced day (though it is still heavily reliant on grains…).
It was very difficult to wade through the stifling of my own views in hopes to encourage some basic understanding of diet balance. I hope that in the end that between our visit to a local farm and the emphasis on fruits and vegetables in the resources we used at least put some ideas in the sweet hearts and minds of these awesome kids. Perhaps they will choose the apple over the chips at school next year? Just once? If so, my work here is done.