By Allysan Scatterday
My, how times have changed.
In 1900, 41 percent of the US workforce was employed in agriculture. 100 years later, that number was a mere 2.1 percent. This shift means that most children today grow up disconnected from the system that brings food to their plates. They probably don’t live on a farm, and it’s likely that they don’t even know a farmer. The growing, processing, and distribution of food goes on behind the scenes. We tend to only see what we pull off of the shelf.
At Central Park School for Children in Durham, Anna Morrison is reconnecting kids to the food system, from farm to fork. Through project-based learning, her first grade class is incorporating farming into all aspects of the curriculum.
In their outdoor classroom, students are taking a hands-on approach to environmental education while growing flowers and vegetables, making their own worm compost, investigating the soil, and getting creative in the outdoor kitchen. Their reader’s workshop includes books like Charlotte’s Web, and they’ve even done an art project with drawings of cows in the style of Andy Warhol. They’ve created surveys to gather data on how many families of students at their school grow food at home.
The class gets a CSA box from Green Button Farm and uses this produce to cook and conduct food investigations. The kids make a new recipe with a fruit or vegetable they may have never tried. Anna says the kids are much more willing to try unfamiliar foods when they can do so alongside their peers, and many have been excited to talk about how delicious their creations are!
In addition to visiting local farms and the Durham Farmers Market, Anna's class recently made a trip to the Farmer Foodshare office at the Bull City Cool Food Hub in Durham. They learned about how we connect local farmers with people in the community who need fresh produce. They got to step inside our cold storage units (brrrr), see our team unload the truck, and sample strawberries and snap peas from local farms.
This week, Anna’s class hosted its very own farmers market and invited Farmer Foodshare to participate. Two student helpers staffed the table and told their peers and parents about their visit to Farmer Foodshare and the work that we do to connect farmers with citizens in our community who face hunger. They even drew us a special sign to hang on our table! One student mentioned to her mom how lucky their family is to have a full refrigerator at home. “We’re lucky we don’t need food,” she said, “but there are a lot of people who do.”
These children understand why the work of Farmer Foodshare is important and how it meets the needs of both farmers and community members. The students in Anna’s class are already thinking about the complexity of the food system that surrounds them. Education is critical to improving our food system, and we love that Anna is teaching her students to be informed eaters!