By Danielle Nierenberg & Lilia Smelkova

Oct. 24 is Food Day, a time to reflect on the foods we -- and our kids -- eat.

There are 17.9 million food insecure households, 3.9 million of whom have children.

Yet, more than one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Ironically, food insecurity often contributes to obesity.

So does lack of proper education about food and nutrition. On average, U.S. students get less than four hours of food education per year. Millions of kids aren't learning about the importance of fresh, nutritious food at home or at school, making it almost impossible for them to be healthy adults.

To make matters worse, fast food and soft drinks are in greater supply -- and cheaper -- than ever before. The combination of aggressive advertising campaigns by fast food companies and the cheapness and accessibility of low-nutrient, high-caloric products has proven, unfortunately, to be extremely effective. A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 30 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 19 in the U.S. consume fast food every day!

The World Health Organization has said that marketing junk food to kids is "a public health threat," noting a strong connection between children's exposure to junk food marketing and their consumption of high-fat and processed foods.

As a counter to this, in kitchens, schoolyard gardens and cafeterias all over the world, parents, teachers and students are finding opportunities to learn how to grow, cook, process and share fresh, nutritious food. By providing students with fresh, nutritious foods, educational institutions can teach healthy eating habits in the most direct way possible.

The Kitchen Community in Chicago and Denver, for example, is not only providing children with fresh produce in lunchrooms, but also actually teaching them how to grow fruits and vegetables themselves. Their learning gardens instruct students about how to grow natural food, which is then incorporated into their own school cafeteria menus.

And KIDS Can Make a Difference is teaching middle- and high-school students about the societal problems that cause hunger and poverty, and what they can do to solve them.

In New York, some restaurants have teamed up with the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food for the Cool School Food project, which designs and tests plant- and legume-based school cafeteria menus in both Ithaca and New York City.

As part of the federally run AmeriCorps Network, FoodCorps service members work with local organizations to enhance the level of nutrition education in schools, engage students directly with their food through school garden projects and coordinate farm-to-school programs that bring local farmers and educators together to transform cafeterias into educational environments.

It's time to cultivate the next generation of eaters, farmers, scientists and policymakers for a more sustainable food system.

Danielle Nierenberg is co-founder of The Food Think Tank. Lilia Smelkova is the Food Day campaign manager.

Copyright Danielle Nierenberg and Lilia Smelkova.

Photo: Flickr user Nicolas Boullosa, creative commons licensed.


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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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