Understanding how food impacts our health, our environment, and our economy is essential. This information leads eaters to make choices about what they eat that promote their own health and the health of their communities. It makes them aware of career opportunities and of the importance of thinking broadly and deeply about how we feed ourselves and each other.
Every K-12 student in Massachusetts should receive education about the food system so they have this understanding. A comprehensive food system education should strive to ensure that students understand:
These lessons should be supported with culturally appropriate curricula that are well integrated with existing STEM standards whenever possible, funding for hands-on experiential work, and longitudinal research to measure impact and inform updates to curricula as needed.
There are numerous examples of creative, engaging, effective, standards-aligned food system education lessons currently taught in schools throughout the state, thanks to the leadership of individual teachers and administrators, as well as supportive nonprofits that provide resources. But there is no statewide requirement for such lessons, and no standards to support teachers. As a result, these efforts are uneven, and often exacerbate health and food inequities, as well-resourced schools have greater capacity to offer these lessons, while schools in low-income and communities of color often do not. A commitment by the Commonwealth to provide the guidance and resources needed to do so would help reduce these inequities, and would have a positive impact on student and family health, on the local economy, and on the environment.
The Campaign for Food System Literacy is working to develop and advocate for a statewide food system literacy requirement that would provide these vital lessons for students. The MA Food System Collaborative is engaging a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who value food system education to participate in this campaign. An advisory group is providing guidance for the campaign, and we are conducting key informant interviews with school-based and nonprofit-based educators, nutritionists, and others.
We will compile and publish case studies of existing food system education programs as a resource to inspire other educators to adopt them and help build the case to convince decision makers to provide the support needed to implement a statewide food system literacy curriculum.
We welcome participation from educators, administrators, community members, nutritionists, farmers, parents, students, and others on how MA can prepare the next generation of healthy, informed, thoughtful eaters. Please email Brittany Peats at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about this work in our white paper on the issue.