Why Food Literacy Matters to Children

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Happy Food Literacy Month! This September, I hope you’ll join California Food Literacy Center and Attune Foods in celebrating successful solutions to childhood obesity.

I founded the nonprofit California Food Literacy Center in 2011 to fight childhood obesity by teaching low-income K-5th grade kids to eat smart. After 13 years working in the nonprofit field, I saw a major gap in our food system. We had people without access to fresh food, and we had food banks beginning to bring in more produce. Yet, we still have two generations of Americans who don’t know how to cook.

Studies show that kids are more likely to eat foods they help cook. A recent Stanford study also shows that if you want kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, you should teach them nutrition.

food literacy month_asparagus fun

California Food Literacy Center combines these principles: we teach low-income kids how to cook, about nutrition, and where their food comes from. We give them a holistic perspective of our food system while exposing them to a variety of healthy produce.

In its first year, the nonprofit grew from an idea to statewide recognition. Last year, I worked with California legislature to pass a resolution declaring every September, Food Literacy Awareness Month, state-wide. In the past few weeks, Yolo and Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento passed similar resolutions. Our community has seen the benefits of food literacy education on kids’ healthy eating, and support us in expanding this work.

The nonprofit’s food literacy curriculum teaches kids how to cook, fruit and vegetable appreciation, nutrition, where food comes from, and more. After only three months in the program 90% of kids say healthy food tastes good. 70% of kids ask their families for the foods they eat in class, like broccoli and celery. We reach 2,400 kids per year.

This work is critical in the fight against childhood obesity. Studies show that low intake of vegetables in childhood is linked to health problems throughout the life span, including allergy, asthma, heart disease and diabetes. By getting kids excited to eat more fruits and veggies, California Food Literacy Center is creating healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

This past spring, we launched one of our most exciting programs: the Food Literacy Academy. We train community members as volunteer food literacy teachers so we can reach more kids with food literacy education. The 10-week intensive training provides instruction in food safety, nutrition, food systems, classroom management, curriculum development and more. Upon completion of the program, certified Food Literacy Advocates commit to 100 annual hours of volunteer food literacy instruction in the community. Twenty advocates have been trained, and we launch another academy on September 10.

We need to work at all levels of our community to make food education a priority, and the academy allows us to reach deeper into pockets of the region we could not reach with staff alone. We need this army of food geniuses working together to move food literacy education into every school.

And, we aim to do exactly that. We’re pleased to work with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and Food Day to move the Food Education in Every School campaign forward in the Sacramento area. Once we reach scale in the Sacramento region, we will begin expansion statewide.

food literacy month_tasting kumquats

This month, we’re also hosting a Kids’ Recipe Contest sponsored by SimplyRecipes.com. We want to inspire kids around the region to cook nutritious food with their families. Kids must incorporate sweet potatoes, our Veggie of the Year, into their recipes. The veggie was voted on by the K-5th graders in one of our food literacy classes, so we know it’s kid-approved. You can download a recipe contest entry form here.

If you want to make a difference, please make a donation to California Food Literacy Center. There’s a saying: “As Sacramento goes, so goes the rest of the world.” The Sacramento region is a market test site for many of the nation’s new products, movies and services. If it succeeds in Sacramento, marketing firms know it will succeed in the rest of the nation.

Our food literacy education is precisely the type of disruptive, innovative change our food system needs if we’re going to eliminate childhood obesity and regain our knowledge of cooking. Sacramento’s successful model can only expand with funding from caring individuals like you.

By making a donation today, you’ll help us move closer to bringing food literacy education to every school! And, if you donate today, Attune Foods will match your gift up to $2,500! That means if you donate $20, you’re actually giving us $40. A big tomato toe-touch of thanks to Attune Foods for their support of our mission to teach kids to eat smart!

Thank you for helping us to tackle childhood obesity. Thank you for making kids’ health a priority. And, happy Food Literacy Month!

Amber Stott

About Amber Stott
Amber K. Stott, Founder of California Food Literacy Center, grows her own groceries in Sacramento, California. She blogs about living la vida locavore at Awake at the Whisk, a lifestyle guide about food that’s good for you and good for the planet. She also writes for Edible Sacramento magazine. She’s a steering committee member of the Sacramento Region Food System Collaborative, a coalition of public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders working to inform and influence policy initiatives relevant to the regional food system in the 6-county Capital Region, a project facilitated by Valley Vision and funded by The California Endowment.

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