Written by: Susan Bandler, Curriculum Developer, FRESHFARM FoodPrints
One of Common Threads’ program partners, FRESHFARM FoodPrints, offers programming that creates opportunities for students to learn about different food traditions through their five senses and by building connections with their own cultures and history. In this guest blog, the FoodPrints team shares its approach to educating communities about food (something aligned with Common Threads’ mission) and provides some tips for how families can engage children in positive discussions about food.

Picture students in a winter garden exploring broccoli plants by looking for different shades of green and noticing their flowers, feeling their bumpy and smooth textures, listening to them, smelling them, and tasting them. This is a taste of the experiential learning in the FoodPrints curriculum. 

Using a model of grow, cook, eat, learn, FoodPrints lessons nurture a sense of curiosity and excitement through positive experiences with food, whether with young children exploring with their five senses or older children becoming nutrient detectives and telling their own “food stories.”

The FoodPrints curriculum consists of 63 hands-on, minds-on interdisciplinary lessons for grades  Pre-K through 5th grade aligned with national standards.  These lessons integrate gardening, cooking and nutrition education into the curriculum with the goal of improving health outcomes for children and families. Founded in 2009 at one elementary school in Washington, D.C., FoodPrints currently partners with 19 Washington, D.C. public schools serving 7,000 students.

Students use their senses to explore and engage with food and the natural world

The FoodPrints approach is anchored in one of the first Pre-K lessons, Exploring with Our Five Senses, where students are encouraged to use all of their senses to fully explore and engage with their natural world.  

As they explore the school garden, they 

  • look for different shades of green (they can use paint color sample cards or colored pencils in multiple shades of green); 
  • touch items with different textures, such as soft sage leaves, bumpy cabbage leaves or the soil; 
  • listen to sounds (birds, squirrels, the wind) while closing their eyes; 
  • smell herbs such as mint and rosemary; and 
  • taste sour sorrel leaves or mild lettuce leaves. 

In the kitchen, students are also encouraged to use their five senses when exploring new foods. We understand that it can take eight to 10 presentations of a new food before a child will openly accept it;  students who are hesitant to taste a new food are encouraged to touch, smell, and even listen to it before taking a small bite. Sometimes, a student is ready during one class period–though often it is a process that occurs over months or an entire school year–and enthusiastically participates in food preparation. 

Students’ own food experiences and stories guide their learning

FoodPrints understands that every student comes with their own food story, and we avoid using terms such as “good” or “bad” or “healthy” or “unhealthy” when talking about food and the choices students and their families make.  Throughout the Health & Nutrition theme students explore ingredients in the kitchen and garden; they are encouraged to eat a rainbow and learn why to choose whole grains. 

The “big idea” in the 3rd grade lesson Nutritious and Delicious is that nutritious and delicious food promotes good health. In this lesson, students become nutrient detectives, searching for the vitamins in a school lunch menu or the sugar on a food label.  They also spend time designing a delicious and nutritious snack focusing on the tastes and textures they most enjoy and develop an advertisement for their new product.

FoodPrints lessons give students an opportunity to learn about different food traditions around the world while building connections with their own cultures and history. Throughout the theme of Food Culture & Family Traditions, students reflect on their own food traditions while learning about other food traditions — in their classes and communities — and how they have evolved. In Celebrating Food Stories, the final lesson of the 5th grade, students share some of their own food memories and then create a new food tradition with their classmates. 

In addition to the 63 lessons, the FoodPrints curriculum includes additional resources to help with the planning and implementing of the program.  The organization has a series of 28 high-energy lesson videos for students and educators as well as cooking skills videos and recipe videos

Register here to receive full access to our curriculum and resources.  Please reach out with any questions about bringing FoodPrints to your community. Contact Jennifer Ramsey, the director of curriculum and instruction, at jramsey@freshfarm.org or Susan Bandler, curriculum developer, at susan@freshfarm.org