This morning as usual I ate a large breakfast to start off my day. I take this routine for granted, whereas for a whopping 21.7 million children around the U.S. breakfast and lunch are uncertain or sporadic (CNNMoney). In Ted Steinberg’s Down to Earth, he mentions that during the rise of factory farming, “Americans commonly worried that the advent of modern, urban life had cut them off from the natural world,” (Steinberg, 179).
Today, many Americans young and old do not have access to food from the natural world any longer due to their living conditions, or financial situation, this is simply unacceptable. Some easy solutions to this problem could be increased education to low-income children on the importance of nutrition and simple gardening techniques as well as an increase in municipal land and funding for community gardens in urban areas.
In Chicago alone on average of 1.05 million children receive free or reduced breakfast/lunch, nearly the entire population of the State of New Hampshire (Lutton). The environmental impacts of ensuring these children receive their food in a timely manner are significant considering the amount of food that must be delivered to these schools and the gas that is used to transport the food. Aside from the environmental effects, there are also the social impacts of giving kids food, which boosts their ability to pay attention and contribute at school (CNNMoney). Some experts even go as far to say the free or reduced food prices motivate kids to attend school because of the likelihood of food scarcity at home.
One individual who pioneered the fusion of organic gardening in impoverished schools is Alice Waters a renowned American chef famous for her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA (Schlosser, Wilson, 250). Waters instituted the Edible Playground initiative in the Berkeley area after being appalled by the reheated fast food she saw the kids consuming. With her initiative asphalt was torn up and an organic garden installed that produced lettuce, corn, pumpkins etc., that the kids learned how to make into simple and healthy meals (Schlosser, Wilson, 250). This initiative not only educates children on how to feed themselves better but also instills in them sustainable practices and skills that they can translate into use later on in life. Edible Playground also gives them a chance to experience and use nature in a natural way, as they may not have time to experience nature on their own due to their family situation.
I believe Alice Water’s model could be used to a greater effect if the idea was brought to Inner City areas all over the U.S. allowing people there a chance to experience and use fresh food daily. Programs that get kids involved in using food could overtime reduce the resources that are used to bring food to them which would benefit the environment overall cutting down on oil used, industrial food pollution and transportation costs. Today, there are currently around 65 community gardens in the City of Chicago, however many are centered in largely affluent city communities (LaTrace). If Chicago were to take more time to construct community gardens in ‘less desirable’ parts of the city the effort could yield lower street violence and well being through improved social connections according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). More community gardens could also give impoverished families a chance at growing their own fresh food, which they could incorporate into their daily diets.
Finally, the fact that in the 21st century people are going hungry in the wealthiest country in the world is unacceptable. With simple changes to how we educate kids in school on sustainable food options and how to prepare them we can help bring up a population that will both be in touch with nature and how to sustain its uses into the future. It’s about time we put a bit more effort into ideas such as gardens and community than into how to best maximize how to transport frozen food and feed it to America’s posterity.
For more information on sustainable food practices, follow these links/resources –
“Community Gardens.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 June 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
LaTrace, AJ. “Urbs in Horto: Mapping 65 Community Gardens in Chicago.” Curbed Chicago. N.p., 14 July 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
Lutton, Linda. “Half of All Public School Students in Illinois Now Considered Low-income.” WBEZ91.5. N.p., 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.
Schlosser, Eric, and Charles Wilson. Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.
Steinberg, Theodore. Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History. New York Oxford UP, 2013. Print.
“When School’s out for Summer, Millions of Kids Go Hungry.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 22 June 2015. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/22/news/economy/hungry-kids-summer/index.html?sr=fbmoney062715schoolfood0700story>.