The importance of food literacy

by Rose Sarner* (Guest Blogger)

“It’s one thing to provide people with food and it’s another to teach food literacy.” According to Fast Company, in 2021, “54 million Americans do not have access to healthy food,” and according to NPR, “80 percent of Americans fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.”  

Healthful food and its many benefits are not an everyday reality for many families in the world. Here in the United States, young kids, teens, and adults have little knowledge about the foods they are putting into their bodies, where the food is coming from, or how different foods affect their overall health. The programs that are in place that are supposed to “educate” Americans are not engaging, clear, or very informative and this failing has contributed to the current health and obesity crisis in the United States. Making health sustainable is a multifaceted issue that has many layers. Many individuals fall short of taking care of their health issues because they do not know how to make a life switch and sustain their progress. 

Our schools can play an important role in changing dietary habits by educating students on food literacy.  According to The Centers for Disease and Prevention, “US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year, which is far below the 40–50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change.” Additionally, educators are encouraged to teach nutritional education classes at schools; however, given the important role a person’s consumption of healthy foods has in preventing chronic diseases and supporting good health, ideally, educators would provide students with more hours of nutritional instruction. Research has proven a connection between healthy diets and one’s emotional well-being, and how emotions may influence eating habits (The Centers for Disease and Prevention). Due to the large number of required classes in many schools across the country, administrators and teachers should consider ways to integrate nutrition education into their existing curriculums.  

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Service with FoodCorps

by Lucy Weiss*

With a background in Food Studies, an interest in food law and policy, and a belief in the power of education, I was searching for ways to combine my passions when a professor recommended FoodCorps to me. FoodCorps is an AmeriCorps service fellowship program focusing on student access to healthy food in schools that partners with local community organizations and school districts around the U.S. Service members participate in three primary activities: providing hands-on lessons, encouraging healthy school meals, and promoting a schoolwide culture of health. For example, members teach gardening and cooking and facilitate taste tests of new and different foods, although the COVID-19 pandemic limits some of what we are able to do. A number of service members also work with the cafeteria staff and school districts to ensure healthy food options are available and promoted at school lunches. Each state and site partner have different needs and therefore service varies from position to position. 

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