by Katy Villanueva
Over the course of this long, dry summer, I taught food literacy classes at day camps throughout Santa Barbara County. These camps are all “feeding sites,” or extensions of the regular CAC/Food Bank free and reduced meal programs.
We offered programming in Lompoc, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. My regular weekly lessons were taught at the Westside Neighborhood Center in Santa Barbara, and at the Minami Center in Santa Maria. Lessons included edible parts of a plant, seasonality, cultures that prepare grains and beans, and many other topics to help children better understand food and nutrition.
Interactive trainings involved the kids, who played games with each other, shared ideas, and presented their findings. For example, I taught a lesson called “Eat the Rainbow” where kids split up into color-assigned teams and brainstormed as many fruits/vegetables of that color as possible. They then presented what they found, and opened it up for discussion with the rest of the group.
I also taught about descriptive words, and what it means to actually experience food, instead of simply using it as nourishment. This was a bizarre experience for the kids because they had never thought, for example, that carrots are sweet and cabbage is spicy. These dialogues were the most valuable part of my lessons. Getting kids to start talking about what they taste and why they do or don’t like certain foods can open their eyes to concepts they have never contemplated before. I sometimes even hid certain foods within recipes to show them they really do like the taste of healthy foods (i.e. kale), a trick I’m sure most parents have used with their kids.
The lessons I taught over the summer were very valuable for the kids in Santa Barbara County, but they were also important for my own growth as an educator and a student. I am a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania and have been studying nutrition education and adolescent health for the past three years. Anyone who has taught kids knows that teaching is the best way to learn, especially informal dialogues like the ones I had this summer. The School Food Initiative offered an opportunity to dive deep on something important, and come out the other side having helped a wide range of people, including myself.
University of Pennsylvania student Katy Villanueva was a summer intern at the Orfalea Foundation.