You’ve heard about the importance of literacy for reading, for finances (“financial literacy”), and maybe even for math — aka, numeracy — but what about food literacy?
The Food Literacy Center, a nonprofit in Sacramento, Calif., is inspiring kids to become knowledgeable about food in the hopes that they’ll develop life long healthy eating habits.
It opened its doors three years ago, offering classes on cooking and all-around vegetable know-how to children and has become so popular that now, dozens of volunteers work alongside its four full-time employees — reaching 2,400 kids at public libraries, after-school programs and other nonprofits. It specializes in reaching low-income kids and those who qualify for free and reduced lunch. These families often can’t afford fresh produce, leaving their kids inexperienced in everything from carrots to kohlrabi.
At the Food Literacy Center, they learn such facts as how to distinguish fruits — including the frequently misidentified bell pepper — and why whole fruits are better for them than juices and jellies.
The founder of the center, Amber Stott, tells the Sacramento Bee, “Because kids’ eating habits haven’t been firmly formed yet, we have a great opportunity to create healthy eaters, to help these kids become food adventurers and build habits that will last a lifetime.”
The effect of fruit and veggie literacy often extends to the kids’ parents. Evonne Fisher, the mother of a seven-year-old participating in the program, says that before her daughter’s food lessons, neither of them were culinary adventurers. “Before Food Literacy, if I was scared of how a certain food looked, I wouldn’t try it,” she says. “But this has really opened me up. I never would have tried a persimmon before, and now? I love them.”