<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: Every school in the country should be doing this

Friday, February 24, 2006

Every school in the country should be doing this

Medical experts say that because of the rise of Type 2 diabetes, a disease that is largely preventable through diet and exercise, many of today's children will probably die younger than their parents. But in today's schools, most children are learning everything but how to eat well and exercise.

Berkeley food guru Alice Waters has a solution: Start giving students credit for eating a good lunch.

Waters, who helped establish the Edible Schoolyard, a gardening and cooking project in the Berkeley public schools, says that teaching children about food changes their lives. "I've come to believe that lunch should be at the center of every school's curriculum," she says. "Schools should not just serve food; they should teach it in an interactive, hands-on way, as an academic subject."

Waters says that children's eating habits stay with them for the rest of their lives. "The best way to defeat the obesity epidemic," Waters says, "is to teach children about food - and thereby prevent them from ever becoming obese."

Waters asserts that fast, cheap food not only contributes to the obesity epidemic but affects children's perception of the real value of food. "Not only are our children eating this unhealthy food, they're digesting the values that go with it: the idea that food has to be fast, cheap and easy; that abundance is permanent and effortless; that it doesn't matter where food actually comes from. These values are changing us. As a nation, we need to take back responsibility for the health of not just our children, but also our culture."

The Edible Schoolyard program features a kitchen classroom and a garden full of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The school's 1,000 students grow, prepare, and share all the fresh food from the garden. And these food-related activities are woven into the entire curriculum, Waters says. "Math classes measure garden beds. Science classes study drainage and soil erosion. History classes learn about pre-Columbian civilizations while grinding corn."

"We're not forcing them to eat their vegetables," Waters says. "We're teaching them about the botany and history of those vegetables. We're not scaring them with the health consequences of their eating habits; we're engaging them in interactive education that brings them into a new relationship with food. Nothing less will change their behavior."

Waters observes that when a healthy lunch is a part of a class that all children have to take, for credit, and when they can follow food from the garden to the kitchen to the table, doing much of the work themselves, "something amazing happens. The students want to taste everything. They get lured in by foods that are beautiful, that taste and smell good, that appeal to their senses. When children grow and prepare good, healthy food themselves, they want to eat it, and, what's more, they like this way of learning."

Waters believes we need a revolution that will induce children "in a pleasurable way" to think critically about what they eat. The study of food, and school lunch, should become part of the core curriculum for all students, from kindergarten through high school. Such a move will require a significant investment, but, as Waters says, "if we don't pay now, the health care bill later will be astronomical."

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/24/opinion/24waters.html

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