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.
By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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