By Danielle Nierenberg and Katherine Walla
As the holiday season ramps up for many across the world, Food Tank is highlighting 15 children's books that will introduce young eaters, growers and innovators to the world of food and agriculture. Authors and organizations are working to show children the importance — and fun — of eating healthy, nutritious and delicious food, growing their own produce, and giving food to others in need.
The books on this list show that food provides more than calories — it also connects people across cultures, countries and culinary traditions. From these books, children and adults alike can learn that even non-perfect foods can be tasty and that diverse people, like diverse vegetables in a garden, can make the world a beautiful place.
Food Tank is highlighting 15 children's books that show how food, nutrition and agriculture are springboards to connecting with one another this holiday season:
1. Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Mary Azarian
Adopted by the USDA's Agriculture in the Classroom program, Before We Eat shows that before food gets to the table, many people work hard to make our plates full. The book reminds readers that nourishing one person involves a team of fishers, farmers, ranchers and farm workers to enrich our food system. The expanded edition includes features about school gardens and the farm-to-school movement for budding activists and community leaders ready to make a change.
2. Can You Eat? by Joshua David Stein, illustrated by Julia Rothman
Food critic Joshua David Stein rhymes through familiar foods and other goofy, common items for a simple and fun exploration of what can — and cannot — be eaten. Through laughter and smiles, children will see how fun it is to have variety in their diet and explore the abundance of biodiversity in the edible world.
3. Everyone Eats! by Julia Kuo
Everyone Eats explores a diversity of eaters: the cute animals and critters that make up our ecosystem. Kuo features each animal and the foods they eat that are familiar, edible and even nutritious to readers. Each page will show toddlers how to be fearless in eating these healthy snacks and also that humans and animals are more alike than they thought — therefore, it is important to protect their habitats.
4. Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, and Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman
This collection of books from Julia Rothman joins intricate illustrations with entertaining facts and guides about the food world. Covering topics from life on a farm and the natural world to global kitchens and cuisines, Rothman shows how food, farms and nature intersect to create a delicate — but exciting — system. Readers of all ages will be able to add to their knowledge of history, practical skills, and understanding of the food system and ecosystem.
5. Farming by Gail Gibbons
Gibbons' introduction to farming shows that farming is a busy practice throughout the year. Not only are animals born, fields tended, and crops harvested, but farmers are also incorporating new technologies and adapting to the forces of nature. The newest edition of Farming uses the same bright colors and simple illustrations, with added expertise on agricultural science and updated farming procedures.
6. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Fry Bread tells the story of a modern Native American family through the role fry bread plays in their family and community. The powerful poetry shows that even a staple food can say so much about family, history, memory and community. In the end, Maillard shows how the bread serves as a tool to promote connectivity between communities and among nations.
7. Just Ask! By Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López
Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor joins with López on a book that celebrates not only diversity in a garden, but also diversity in mankind. In Just Ask, children can celebrate the different abilities that kids have by reading about children starting a community garden. In building the garden, the kids ask each other often-ignored questions to encourage readers to do the same: This book shows children that when encountering someone different than them, it is best to just ask and celebrate everyone's unique abilities. In the end, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor hopes children realize that, just like in a garden, diversity makes the world more vibrant and wonderful.
8. My Food, Your Food by Lisa Bullard, illustrated by Christine M. Schneider
In My Food, Your Food, leading character Manuel enjoys food week in class. As each child reminisces about a special meal their family cooks and eats — and special ways they eat them — Manuel realizes that food across cultures is incredibly different. But by enjoying the diverse food traditions, eating with chopsticks, forks and hands, Manuel realizes that eaters across cultures are actually surprisingly alike.
9. Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfasts Around the World by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Tomoko Suzuki
Pancakes to Parathas explores unique breakfasts from country to country. Although the breakfasts differ across the twelve countries, like Australia, India, Japan, and Brazil, readers will find that the meal joins eaters at dawn to get their day started. The bold illustrations help children imagine breakfasts like soured soybeans and coffee — with lots of milk — as they explore what children around the world feast on in the morning.
10. Right This Very Minute by Lisl H. Detlefsen, illustrated by Renee Kurilla
Detlefsen offers children a look at where food comes from before they see it in stores and restaurants. Whenever a child says they're hungry right this very minute, this book will remind them of food's incredible journey, from farmer to plate. Showing the variety of farmers involved in making different meals — including orchardists, beekeepers, and livestock, grain, and vegetable farmers — the book reminds children that the supply chain connects them to farmers all around the world.
11. See What We Eat!: A First Book of Healthy Eating by Scot Ritchie
In See What We Eat, character Yulee and her four friends take a tour of her aunt's farm, pick apples and make apple crisp for a potluck dinner. Each stop on the tour helps the children understand more about an important component of a balanced meal: fields of grain, gardens of vegetables, hen houses and the barn for dairy and protein, and an orchard of fruit. Finally, the characters come together with a multicultural group of neighbors for a big potluck meal.
12. The Good Egg by Jory John and Pete Oswald
In The Good Egg, an extremely good egg finds it hard to keep being good when the other eggs are being rotten. In his dozen, the other 11 eggs behave badly, so the good egg attempts to take charge to perfect the bunch. However, the pressure starts to wear its shell; the good egg self-reflects and eventually realizes that not everyone can be perfect and it is important to be good to others — no matter if they have brief moments of rottenness.
13. The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola
Twins Tony and Tiny in The Popcorn Book love popcorn — but don't know how or where it is made. The twins join together to cook and learn about their favorite snack, exploring what exactly it is, how it is stored and its cultural significance in legends and stories from North America and Europe. In this 40th anniversary edition, however, dePaola joins with experts to present expanded historical facts, highlighting the role popcorn historically played in Native American communities and how they prepared the snack.
14. We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines
In We Are the Gardeners, Gaines and her children describe their experience starting their family garden, from challenges and hurdles to new wisdom they hope to share. The family details their experience starting with a single fern plant, joining together to protect pollinators and soil dwellers, and standing up to the face of adversity: the faces of pesky rabbits who gnaw at their vegetables. Throughout the book, readers can learn how challenging — yet rewarding — starting a garden can be.
15. What’s On Your Plate?: Exploring the World of Food by Whitney Stewart, illustrated by Christiane Engel
Stewart takes readers on a tour through the food traditions of 14 countries, highlighting that plates around the world are incredibly diverse. Exploring Brazil, Spain, Morocco, India, China and more, Stewart explores the people, cooking practices, food, and ways of thinking that make each place unique. And with easy recipes, readers will be able to try the meals that are connecting them to families around the globe.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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