Your Gift to Our Kids: A Healthy Future
December 21, 2017
It’s common sense: for kids to be healthy and thrive, they need good food to nourish their bodies and their minds. But in an industrial food system that values profits over people’s health, many growing kids don’t have the access to fresh fruits and vegetables to get the nutrition they need.
But there is hope. You have the power to help kids in our community live the healthy lives they deserve. By supporting CUESA’s Foodwise Kids program, you give 2,500 students each year a free farmers market field trip and cooking class that will empower them with skills to last a lifetime.
This month we’re featuring members of our community who are creating the healthy world we want to see. Are you feeling the need for a little inspiration? Then meet Saeeda Hafiz, a Wellness Policy Project Manager for San Francisco Unified School District, and one of CUESA’s newest Board members. Saeeda helps to create and implement SFUSD’s Wellness Policy for the district’s 56,000 students, over half of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. Through her work with teachers and students, Saeeda has also been instrumental in shaping and growing CUESA’s Foodwise Kids program over the last five years.
You play a vital role in creating a healthy present and future for our kids. Saeeda shares why:
Barriers to Success
What if the way to interrupt systemic oppression is by changing the way we feed and move our bodies?
In terms of understanding how students get advantages or keep up in school, a lot has to do with instruction. However, a student also has to have a mind and body that is ready to learn. Much of the food that our kids are eating is laden with fat, salt, and sugar, which dull the senses and the mind. Those foods make you too lethargic to learn and participate at a higher level.
Families today are stretched in different ways, such as time and money. When it comes to food, they often need to pay for convenience over quality and nutritional value.
Our current marketing system is also a huge barrier for kids because processed and prepackaged foods get most of the advertising dollars. If you don’t know what a certain fruits and vegetables are, and you don’t get to see them in the market or the store that you frequent, then you may not try them.
Awakening the Palate and the Mind
The farmers market is an important access point in terms introducing students to healthy foods. We develop our palates and our tastes very early on. If our palates aren’t given an opportunity to expand and try new foods, then we’re not always bringing in nutrients or the enjoyment of variety.
From the beginning of our Nutrition Education Project at SFUSD, we’ve been taking kids to the farmers market and showing them fresh produce. When CUESA started the Foodwise Kids program, it felt like a natural collaboration.
CUESA was able to expand on our curriculum by having specific lessons. Students use different skills sets when interacting with market vendors, so it’s holistic. CUESA gives the students wooden coins, so that everybody can shop in the market and feel included and not worry about price. And then the kids have a hands-on project cooking together in the open kitchen, seeing how easy it is to prepare fresh produce in 30 minutes or less.
I’ve heard from veteran teachers who’ve been in the district 20+ years say that it was the best field trip that they’d experienced.
This Market Is for You
Our students come from different neighborhoods, so some of them may not have the access to the farmers market as an option in their mind. Having exposure to the farmers market allows students to start to think about what choices and options they do have. The Foodwise Kids program takes kids through the farmers market step-by-step to say, “This market is also for you.”
The students’ experience at the farmers market gives them an opportunity to taste the freshest fruits and vegetables available to them, which is so different from canned or processed foods. They can try it and say, “Oh my goodness, this is what it’s supposed to taste like?”
Students also get to be creative with whatever fruits or vegetable they’re attracted to. Being curious and feeling like you won’t do it wrong is a huge part of the experience.
A kid is allowed to be a kid and say, “OK, this is what I have. What do we do with this?” Which is how life is set up. You get a set of ingredients in life and you have to decide what you’re going to make of it. Some people get frustrated and don’t like what’s been handed to them, and others end up looking closely at it and making something delicious.
That exposure to the fresh fruits and vegetables provides an opportunity for kids to really taste nature, and that’s what our bodies have been designed for. The more kids have the opportunity to be in touch with a natural food source, the more processed foods won’t feel as satisfying.
Living in a highly industrialized, digital world, our bodies crave sustainable, natural things. We’re always seeking balance. Having these experiences with food early on means that as our students continue to learn and grow, they won’t forget the core of how we nourish ourselves.
Investing in a child who doesn’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables is really an investment in yourself, because we’re not separate as we think. If we invest in these kids today, it will come back to nourish all of us.
Give today so that kids in our community can grow up healthy and become the food changemakers of tomorrow. Make a tax-deductible donation today.
Foodwise Kids photos by Amanda Lynn Photography.