Over the past year, I wrote many times about how food plays a role in homeschooling Sophia and Olivia.
For example, when studying about different countries for our multi-year, multi-disciplinary study about 26 different countries (one for each letter of the alphabet), we always would prepare at least two recipes from that country. It was a great way to learn about how people eat in other parts of the world.
Ready to enjoy a Turkish lunch.
This year, we are using food in even more ways:
- We are doing a multi-year unit study about the United States by learning about each state in the country. Every week, we have been trying new recipes that are representative of each state. The recipes are from Eat Your Way Around the U.S.A.
Orange Cake from New Hampshire.
- Each week we read a book from the Five in a Row curriculum. There is a cookbook that has two or three recipes that relate to each book. There also is a place to include photographs of the food as it is prepared and enjoyed.
Chopping fresh fruit for a salad.
The recipe tied into the book Madeline.
- For Sophia's cooking class at the homeschool co-op, we are using the Alpha-Bakery cookbook which has one recipe for each letter of the alphabet. Each week, we are making one recipe from the cookbook. So far, we have made Apple Crisp, Banana Bread, and Chocolate Chip Cookies.
- We expanded the vegetable, herb, and fruit garden this spring; and tried growing some new items during the summer. This was met with mixed success: the tomatoes, herbs, raspberries, and beans did well. Broccoli, beets, and carrots were not as productive as hoped. Although it is nice to have the garden, the majority of the fresh produce we used during the summer came from farmers who we supported at local farmers markets.
Olivia planting beans in the garden.
- The girls learned how to dry and preserve herbs; tomatoes; and fruit during the summer. They also will be helping with canning applesauce in the fall as they do each year.
Basil growing in the garden.
- We donated food to the food shelf several times this year as part of our 52 Weeks of Giving challenge. We also have prepared meals for people recovering from surgery and experiencing medical/health challenges.
Bringing homemade food to a friend
recovering from surgery.
A couple areas that I want to share with the girls about and learn more about are the issues of food waste as well as food rescue/recovery. I remember these "real-life lessons" when I was a child.
My parents, who were raised during The Depression were very resourceful and frugal. In addition to growing some of their own food, we regularly visited the farmers' market (often at 5:30-6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning) so they could reduce their food bill. The produce was less expensive than in the grocery store; and they were able to buy in bulk to can and freeze items for use during the winter and spring.
One of my most vivid memories of going to the farmers' market sometimes after it closed. Some of the farmers would throw unpurchased food into the dumpsters. This bothered my parents because the food was perfectly fine and could be used. To them, it was such a waste.
They lifted my brother, sister, and I up to the dumpster to retrieve the vegetables that had just been thrown in it. We took the food out and my parents brought it home where they washed, and prepared and/or preserved it.
Recovering food like this was both an environmental/waste issue for them as well as a financial issue. My father was a school social worker who had a very limited salary for only nine months out of the year; and my mother was a stay-at-home mom.
We were, according to the financial charts, poor and qualified for free or reduced lunches (depending on the year and how much income my parents earned). So, being able to supplement the food budget with recovered food was essential to surviving.
Today, there is a movement called freeganism. According to Wikipedia, freeganism "...is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources."
Wikipedia continues, "Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed."
An article in Marie Claire states that "...freegans rarely go hungry thanks to the colossal amount of food Americans dump every day — 38 million tons annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Here's another way to look at it: The United Nations says our leftovers could satisfy every single empty stomach in Africa."
Another aspect of food recovery that I would like to incorporate into homeschooling is based on an article that I read about a woman who lives in Vermont who visits local businesses and restaurants that donate fresh produce, expiring food, and prepared food. She then delivers the food she collects to food shelves as well as agencies that serve people who are homeless.
In Minnesota, one in ten people struggles with hunger. At the same time, "In Minnesota alone, we throw out more than 715 million pounds of food each year. State officials say that's how much we send to landfills or garbage burners," according to Julie Siple of Minnesota Public Radio in this article.
She continued, "Hunger relief organizations are increasing their efforts to save the portion of that food that's edible — and get it to hungry Minnesotans."
Locally, the food shelf that serves the community where we live does receive donations from some local businesses of pastries, bagels, and other baked goods. Being a part of this effort would be a worthwhile goal - educationally as well as environmentally - during the upcoming homeschooling year.