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Teaching kids to read — nutrition labels, that is

(article, Ashley Griffin Gartland)

So maybe American kids aren't receiving the best education, food-wise, in the nation's public schools. Some folks are out to change that by empowering children to make better choices at the table.

Take Seattle’s Kurt Dammeier and the Pure Food Kids Workshop. The group's goal? Educating students about food awareness. Pure Foods even provides food-related education to students at no cost to local schools.

A recent article about the group in Seattle Metropolitan magazine (sorry, not available online) explained how it works. “The game plan: Pass out popular snacks like Smart Puffs, Nutri-Grain bars, and Windex-colored Powerade and, in two hours, teach these rookies how to scrutinize labels, recognize the scientific names of sweeteners (hint: many of them rhyme with “gross”) and figure out what they are eating.”

Dammeier isn’t the only individual getting involved in his community schools. A program in Vermont titled Reinventing the Meal also aims to teach school-age kids lessons in nutrition literacy. Founder Chuck Fenton puts it this way: "My goal is to teach nutritional literacy. I want young people to be curious about their food, to ask who grew it, what food value is in it, and what it is made of. I don’t intend to tell them that they should support the local food chain; I want them to find the reasons that make sense to them personally."

Harvard has developed a national nutrition-education curriculum called Planet Health, which focuses on activity, diet, and lifestyle to encourage middle-schoolers to live healthier lives. A similar program called CATCH, or the Coordinated Approach to Child Health, is used in elementary schools around the country.

And for those teachers who want to tackle food education alone, Sustainable Table provides a snack pack of food-related lesson plans.