The Local Food Report: Lettuce Learn

When you were a kid, do you remember knowing where lettuce came from?

I think I knew that it grew in the ground, as a plant, using photosynthesis and all that, but the memory's a little fuzzy these days.

If you had the same idea, you should know you're fairly special. Or more importantly, that your parents and teachers were fairly special, for making sure you did. Because these days, if you ask a lot of American kids where lettuce comes from, they'll say the grocery store. And they're right; for the most part, it does, and that's the end of it. There's very little discussion.

But Dave Dewitt—who runs First Light Organic Farm in Truro—is trying to change that. He used to work for a non-profit out in California, encouraging community gardens and trying to make good use of not-so-desirable open space. In the process, he ended up writing a curriculum called "Lettuce Learn." The idea was to get kids thinking about food, and how it grows, and where it comes from, by integrating it into their everyday subjects: journal writing, science, math. There was a cooking and gardening component too, which the teachers got on board with, and which some kids even took home.

One boy, a tomato lover, saved the tomato seeds from his sandwich and planted them using hangers as trellises in front of his project building in the dirt. Clearly, he was a grower, but the best part about the curriculum was that not all kids had to approach it like that. Some could learn about their food through writing, others through math. And the more they learned, the more they got interested in eating the fresh veggies they were growing.

Broccoli? No problem.

Since his kids started school in Truro, Dewitt has been setting up field trips to the farm and helping the kids grow seedlings on their classroom windowsills. But he wants to do more—he wants to get all the schools involved, teaching about food and growing as a way to raise healthy kids.

In Wellfleet he's found a partner—Lee Wotherspoon, who heads up the Fit Futures program for Outer Cape Health. She works to stop the spread of childhood obesity, and agrees that getting kids to eat things like broccoli and lettuce by teaching them where it comes from is a good way to help them lead a healthier life.

Dewitt's still waiting to get the rights to his curriculum released from the non-profit in California so that he can share it here, but he says even if he doesn't get the okay, they're going to make it work. Heck, he'll even re-write it if he has to.

There will likely be some meetings coming up—the idea is still very much in the birthing stage—but when I get an update, you'll be the very first to know.

In the meantime, what's going on at the schools of your kids? Gardens? Healthy lunches? More?


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful Local Food Report today. This is such an important subject, and one we should all be encouraging our communities to pursue, wherever we live. Thank you for the reminder and the nudge, Elspeth.

If parents everywhere unite and start asking schools to provide healthy food, it WILL make a difference. As Margaret Mead famously said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

I always look forward to the Local Food Report on Thursdays. Since I live in Maine, I particularly appreciate being able to stream the audio from your website. ~A Maine Reader

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