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 Jeff Turrentine
Tamara Lindeman certainly doesn't seem particularly anxious, or grief stricken, or angry. In fact, in a recent Zoom conversation, the Toronto-based singer-songwriter (who records and performs under the name The Weather Station) comes across as friendly, thoughtful, and a little shy.
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>