Next week, dozens of D.C. Schools will celebrate “Growing Healthy Schools Week.” Organized by the DC Farm to School Network, schools will host chef demos, farmer visits, farm trips and gardening workshops.
The executive director of DC Greens, which oversees the Farm to School network, said the event’s intent is to help kids. who may think apples are grown in Giant, better understand the “story” of food. And, that, Lauren Shweder Biel said, makes them far more likely to try those fruits and vegetables.
I asked Shweder Biel to explain what she means by the story of food, and also to discuss last month’s high-profile study from Stanford researchers that concluded that there are minimal nutritional differences between conventional produce and meat, and organic.
She said the answers go hand-in-hand.
“You know what really has no nutritional value? Uneaten vegetables. Many of us have struggled as parents to get those greens into tightly clenched mouths. However, we know from experts across the country that when children have an opportunity to connect with healthy foods — to know where that carrot comes from, to meet a farmer, to grow some chard from seed and witness that miracle first-hand — they are far more likely to try their vegetables. In fact, they are more likely to be open to trying new foods in general. =
“How does this relate to the organics debate? Here’s how:
“There are multiple positive impacts of organic farming that extend beyond nutrition. When you buy organic foods, you know you are supporting farming practices that are better for the environment, and are produced in a sustainable manner… You know that the farmers and laborers growing your food are not exposed to dangerous levels of pesticides. These facts are opportunities to engage your kids in the story of their food.
“If you opt out of organics, you can tell a similar story when you buy local foods: You are reducing the carbon footprint by reducing travel, you are increasing freshness because the foods are harvested more recently, and you are supporting your local farm economy.
“Best option of all? Take your kids to the farmers market. [Shweder Biel founded the Glover Park/ Burleith farmers’ market]. Let them see the farmers and the labor that goes into their foods. Let them pick out the fruit and vegetables themselves.
“When we act consciously about our food purchasing, and engage our children in these positive food stories and food activities, they eat their vegetables. And that is guaranteed to increase their nutritional intake, organic or not.”
More information on Growing Healthy Schools Week is available here. If interested in supporting the program, a handful of area restaurants will be donating a portion of Monday night’s revenue to the initiative.