Food Curricula

GETTING STARTED: Food Education in the Classroom

The classroom is a learning environment where students are learning on a daily basis, and it is an excellent place to teach healthy eating habits, grow food and explore the science and history of our food system. Why is a carrot stick healthier than a French fry? What does a broccoli seed look like? Why do some people eat healthy foods at home and others don’t? What nutrients does soil require for fruits and vegetables to grow? How do hydroponics work? What is a food system, and who is part of it? Children and young adults are naturally drawn to science because of curiosity and testing their knowledge. Farm to school and the tripartite mission, is an evidence-based way to teach about our food and agricultural systems and healthy eating choices and environments.

When Food Education is More Than Just Food Education

Research has shown that children who are exposed to healthy foods at a young age are more apt to try new and healthy foods. Further, introducing young children to healthy foods is vital, as tastes and food preferences develop early on in life.  Both inside and outside of school, exposing children to healthy foods and teaching them about the foods on their plate is a critical step in the food education process. However, food education goes beyond this. To truly understand the big picture, students must be able to connect their food to everyday life.  As such, teachers can play a critical role in helping students make these connections by integrating food education into the classroom curricula.

What can be taught?

Food education can cover a broad spectrum of topics and subject areas!  Here are a few ideas:

  • English/Language arts/Reading – Reading a book on vegetables, writing a poem about what was seen in the school garden, completing group research and giving a presentation on the importance of healthy eating
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) – Conducting measurements in the garden, hypothesizing and calculating the number of pumpkin seeds inside a pumpkin, graphing plant size over time, developing a hydroponics system for use in the classroom and cafeteria, conserving water, building a compost bin, researching the science behind genetically modified (GM) crops, considering the pros and cons of conventional vs organic farming, discussing environmental stewardship
  • Art – Making prints with fruit and vegetable slices, decorating signs for a school garden, designing flyers for a local food drive at the school
  • Social Studies/Community – Identifying healthy foods in different cultures, discussing fast food and the culture of convenience, researching food insecurity in the county and state, discussing the social determinants of health and how this relates to food access and food choices at home
  • History – Tracing the evolution of agriculture throughout the world, discussing the U.S. food system and its roots, researching how U.S. food interests have changed over time
  • Leadership – Taking charge of school garden maintenance, gaining support to develop a community garden in a food-insecure area of town, connecting with farmers to learn about different careers in agriculture, partnering with the local FFA chapter to introduce students to local food efforts, researching entrepreneurship and what would be involved in starting a farmers' market or a local food pantry and resource center

Classroom Resources for All Grade Levels

Big Ideas: Linking Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment These lesson plans align food content to national standards including Common Core State Standards; Next Generation Science Standards; College, Career, and Civic Life Standards (C3); and National Health Education Standards. Covers grades K-12.

Fight Bac! – Food safety curricula and programs designed by The Partnership for Food Safety Education to teach safe food handling to prevent spoilage and food-related illnesses. Covers grades K-12.

Food Resources for Teachers These lesson plans and worksheets will help students explore the many educational uses of food. Lessons are cross-curricular and include hands-on activities in math, science, health, anatomy, and art. Quizzes, reference sheets, recipes, and other resources are available as well. Covers grades K-12.

National Geographic: Food Education  Resources to help students learn about food, the environmental and societal problems that involve food, and to gain the information necessary to formulate their own opinions on food-related issues. Covers grades K-12.

Classroom Resources for High School Classrooms (9-12)

FoodSpan –  Free, downloadable curriculum developed by John Hopkins Center for A Livable Future that provides high school students with a deep understanding of critical food system issues, empowers them to make healthy and responsible food choices, and encourages them to become advocates for food system change. Covers grades K-12.

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