We all know the importance of a well-balanced diet for good health. But eating right is challenging in our over-processed and fast food world. It can be especially difficult to get children to choose fruits, vegetables and whole grains when they constantly see advertisements pushing sugary products and empty-calorie foods. It takes the concerted efforts of a nation to change our food culture and that is exactly what Food Day aims to help do.
Organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is a national grassroots campaign and for healthy, affordable and sustainable food that takes place annually on October 24. Thousands of participants will host activities in schools, workplaces and in communities to address nutrition and other food-related issues. Last year’s event drew more than 32,000 participants representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and organizers are expecting even more participants this year, says Lilia Smelkova, Food Day campaign manager.
“This year’s theme is food education with a focus on cooking with kids. We encourage everyone to teach a kid to cook and use Food Day recipes to plan a cooking activity with children,” says Smelkova.
In Des Moines, Iowa FoodCorps will celebrate Food Day by spotlighting some of the weekly programs it carries out in several schools. Students help maintain school gardens and engage in cooking activities and nutrition lessons through a partnership with the schools and FoodCorps, says Chelsea Krist, service member of the Des Moines FoodCorps. The organization has registered two activities with Food Day. One will take place at Hillis Elementary School, Krist will lead ‘Eco Hour’ where three groups of students will take turns picking vegetables from the school garden, following a recipe such as kale chocolate chip cookies and then baking a snack in the school cafeteria. The following day the entire student body will get a chance to sample what was made, Krist says.
In addition to cooking demonstrations educators can participate in the event in a variety of ways. The Food Day Curriculum, developed by Columbia Teachers College, helps bring food education into the classroom. Education support professionals can plan an “Eat Real” menu to feature local fruits and vegetables and highlight new healthy food options. Organizers have provided a Guide for School Organizers and a school resource page for more information on ways to celebrate Food Day in your school.
The NEA Health Information Network, a partnering organization of Food Day, also sponsors several initiatives to promote healthy food in schools. Resources are available through Healthy Steps, Healthy Lives to assist educators in creating lessons plans covering food and exercise. All activities are tied to national curriculum standards in all academic content areas for grades K-6. Also, the Bag the Junk project is a website that aims to educate, mobilize and empower school communities in support of healthy foods. It supports the federal Smart Snacks in Schools nutrition standards as well as state and local efforts to create healthy school food environments.