There are articles circulating in the news right now that show an interesting interpretation of educational results. The articles have various titles: "Nutrition Classes Don't Work," "Spending on Nutrition Classes Does Little," "Nutrition Education Ineffective." (for instance, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-07-04-fightingfat_N.htm
The conclusion drawn should say instead and more optimistically, "Still Searching for Nutrition Programs that Work."
I have a suggestion for one that works: restructure the children's lives enough so that they have some involvement in at least seeing where food comes from (where it grows, how it is processed) and much better yet, actually growing food. Why would anything else work, anyway? You can't reward a kid with stars or prizes for "eating right." That would fail for several reasons including the fact that kids who are rewarded for behaviors they'd be inclined to do anyway tends to decrease those behaviors. (see Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards
) It might also fail because of the contextual issues of offering candy vs. "healthy food" in a peer context that's likely to elicit "candy-grabbing" behaviors... I could go on with why some programs may be silly or misguided, but you get the point.
These articles reflect how sometimes the press (and the government, and professionals of all sorts outside and inside of education) have a tendency to say, "Oh, we tried that and it didn't work so we gave up trying. well, we're still trying but it isn't working and is probably useless." Why keep going on with what isn't working? In matters like this, when the objective (presumably, that children start to like and seek out healthy foods) isn't even coming into sight? Isn't the better course of action to keep trying, and to start trying in new ways?
In the summertime camp I run, and throughout the school year, I try to regularly get the kids out to my garden. Kids are fascinated with digging up potatoes, harvesting onions and making onion braids for storage, finding choice basil leaves for making pesto, and planting corn and watching it grow from spring to fall. I have yet to find the student who isn't more interested in food, more willing to try things, and more eager to sample earth's bounty after visiting a garden. Kids relate to food when its source is understood, felt, engaged with. Kids easily learn to love healthy foods when they see how it grows.
There are some brilliant examples of getting kids involved with gardens, including these:
World Changing, (Edible Gardens, School Lunches, and Student Action at Zuni Public High School) http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006951.html
and at NPR's news: Oregon School Cafeteria Makes it From Scratch
So that's what I wanted to share with CR2.0 colleagues. Anybody out there share the views about how to help kids get into healthy eating choices? Anybody out there have some experience with this?