Story Bank: Edible Education Also Improves Performance
Edible education is an understanding of where food comes from and how it relates to an individual and the community. Miguel Villarreal speaks about the importance of Edible Education in his school’s district, how it begins with adequate nutrition and incorporates an understanding of where food comes from.
Miguel Villarreal, Director of Food and Nutritional Services (FANS) for the Novato Unified School District in California is transforming the landscape of the school food service program. He and his team have made FANS into the hub for creating nutrition and wellness environments in schools and in the community. Simply by connecting the 3 C’s, cafeteria, classroom and community, FANS is addressing a host of nutrition and wellness initiatives within the schools and in the broader Novato community by working closely with collaborative partners. One highlight of FANS is Miguel’s Farm to School gleaning program, which has attracted both State and National attention for connecting families to locally grown food and to those farmers.
Douglas Gayeton of the Lexicon of Sustainability: Why should food be such an integral part of a child’s education?
Miguel Villarreal: Research has shown that if you have a healthy child that's been nourished properly, they’re going to do better in the classroom academically, socially and physically. That's just been proven time and time again and we've seen the effects of that in our schools.
When you get kids to go to recess first and then have lunch, they’re not eating quickly to get to recess. They are taking their time after recess and having their lunch. We've seen results with these children going back to their classroom and teachers telling us that they've seen a difference in childrens' behaviors and their ability to learn in the classrooms.
How would you describe the term “edible education”?
I would describe it by saying that the word “edible” constitutes the fact that we're taking food into account—not only in the food that’s being served, but the gardens that are being grown in the schools, and the farms around these. Edible education in my description would take all those things into account.
We want to give the individual a comprehensive view of the food that is being served and where it comes from. We've been removed from that. Luckily, here in our area we've been able to do that, but some families do not have the opportunity to visit a farm or even get involved in a school garden.
What do they learn? What value does it have?
It’s one language and it's a common language. When you come out to a farm or into the garden, everybody understands the importance of what that food is doing and what it's going to do for that individual. That's one thing that I've learned in taking these families out. They all quickly understand the importance of healthy, whole, and organic.
What does the term “farm to school” mean?
It’s a term that's been used in describing food coming directly from the farm into our school to be used in the school program, or it could mean food brought into the school as an educational process where we set up a mini-farmer stand. Or it could be food brought in like we're doing right now, where we go out to the farms and we're gleaning.