Most of my Sunday afternoon was spent bouncing off the walls, smiling widely and breathing rapidly with anticipation.
This was it. This was what I was waiting for.
I had received Jamie’s Change.org petition email, signed it, shared it, and then called every food education person I knew to chatter in excitement about the future of food education in this country.
Only the more I spoke to them, the more I realised that signing, sharing, chatting – that wasn’t going to get me anywhere near far enough. I needed to do something beyond the petition – to get things moving, to ensure that the conversation didn’t fizzle out yet again as soon as Jamie left the building.
We’re already pretty lucky in Australia.
We’ve got some fantastic food education initiatives that are growing from strength to strength. Programs like The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Scheme, Paddock to Plate school excursions, Granny Skills workshops, The Big Feed, Week of Tastes – and that’s just off the top of my head. All of these driven by hard-working, passionate people who genuinely believe in their cause.
However, programs and initiatives are just the beginning.
In order for every child to be able to access meaningful food education, it needs to occur beyond the food tech classroom or kitchen garden; rather, it needs to be happening in every class, within every subject.
When I was teaching, I used food as a vehicle to engage and inspire my students to talk about History, Geography – even the English language. It was my “in”, because I knew that at the crux of it, everyone loves delicious.
But now, it’s time we use those subjects, and the rest of the curriculum, to continue to engage and inspire the conversation around food itself.
Through interdisciplinary food education, teachers will be able to help their students to contextualise themselves within a modern world. They’ll not only be helping to build healthy relationships around food, but they’ll also be nurturing students with a social conscience and a global outlook.
Only problem is, I know how hard teachers are already working to fit everything in.
With National Curriculum, NAPLAN results and stakeholders coming out of their eyeballs, it’s fairly unrealistic to throw it over to teachers themselves and say “just make it work”.
On top of that, it’s becoming increasingly harder for those teachers who do want to specialise in food education to seek out professional development and training. Home economics courses are on the critically endangered list in Australia, with many having to resort to roundabout ways of attaining their specialisation.
So where to from here?
One of the first lessons that I learnt as a student-teacher was to avoid reinventing the wheel unless I absolutely had to.
I applied this wisdom at the time, by photocopying every resource I could find… They’re still sitting in my garage, if anyone wants them.
Luckily, by the time I got into the classroom, the internet was already a wealth of information and resources – if you knew where to look.
Educators across the world had already come up with amazing resources for whatever it was that I was about to make a piddly powerpoint about, so all I had to do was track them down and use them!
This approach helped me to enrich my students’ learning and my own pedagogical practise, with just the click of a few buttons.
Which (finally!) brings me to my point… I think it’s time to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
Let’s take the great opportunity and platform that Jamie Oliver has given to this conversation, with his millions of retweets worldwide, by demanding that food education resources are accessible to every teacher out there, and then making sure that these resources rock.
We need a centralised food education resource hub that is user-friendly and open-source – something that has already been successfully implemented across other subjects such as science and the humanities.
I’m going to drive the push – put my lifetime of plagiarism prowess to use for good not evil – and get something off the ground that can be implemented into classrooms, not just across Australia, but throughout the world.
I’d like to get a framework and some preliminary resources for food-ed together by Food Revolution Day – May 15th.
If anyone has mates in government or knows of someone who can pump out a really great website, you know where to find me.
© 2017 Alice Zaslavsky