Food for Thought works with the local community to support, educate and inspire our school children and their families to make healthier food choices.
We are a diverse group of community members collaborating with Ojai's public schools to nurture an awareness of food and its relationship to health, society and the environment. Our volunteers and staff coordinate experiential learning opportunities in schools and participate in outreach, advocacy and coalition-building in the greater community.
Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions across the United States. In Ventura County the rate of childhood obesity is 13.2%, higher than the national average and points to an urgent need to address this problem on a local level. Childhood obesity is one of the main reasons behind the surge of Type 2 diabetes (normally an adult disease) cases found in children under 12. If we don’t address this serious issue now, there will be even greater local and national level health and economic consequences in the future as a result of increased rates of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues associated with obesity. Good nutritional awareness and habits established during childhood can be one of the most effective ways to combat this and other health-related issues associated with obesity in later years.
Today’s television-watching children will receive about 10,000 messages promoting various kinds of commercialized and highly processed food products by the time they start kindergarten. “Cooking from scratch” with fresh ingredients has become a rarity among the growing number of families with working parents. As a consequence, an increased reliance on packaged, processed and prepared foods has lead to an alarming increase in diet-related health issues for children and adults.
A central theme of Food For Thought’s program is to teach children good eating habits early in life and to maintain those habits into adulthood. We do this through taste tests, cooking demonstrations, and nutrition education curriculum integrating California State educational standards, and by working with the District to introduce fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce in the weekly salad bars as part of the National School Lunch Program for OUSD schools.
Reconnecting Kids to the Land
Americans have come to demand and expect fruits and vegetables to be available out of season, which has increased our dependence on imported produce that sometimes travels thousands of miles to reach our tables. Our food production and delivery system has become increasingly centralized and globalized, and as a result, it has become harder and harder to obtain fruits and vegetables from local farms. This is a travesty since local produce, grown in season and harvested at peak ripeness, is often fresher, more nutritious, and tastier than imported produce that is picked before it is ripe.
Our connection to the food we eat and the farmers that grow our food has been broken. Most of our children (and even their parents!) are unaware of the link between the food they eat and where it came from, and the work of the farmer and farm workers who grew it for them.
An important part of the Food For Thought program is to help our children and our community reconnect to the land that sustains them. We do this through farm field trips, community outreach events, and garden-based learning curriculum in the schools. By doing this, we seek to raise awareness and appreciation in the community for the important historical and economic role of agriculture in our region, and the importance of supporting our local farmers. We believe this will help us grow a locally based food system that is healthier for our community, for our farmers and farm workers, and for the environment.
|What You Can Do
Almost everything we do is with the help of volunteers. You can volunteer for a few hours a week, month or year—any help is gladly accepted! With training, guidance and materials provided by Food For Thought, you can become a volunteer docent teaching our nutrition lessons. Or, you can choose to work with our Garden
Coordinators to help maintain our gardens, instruct our students and learn many gardening lessons in the process. You can help us organize our next community-oriented event, chaperone a farm field trip, or help us with our fundraising efforts. It is fun, rewarding, and a good learning experience. Join us! Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are working with OUSD Nutrition Services to get as much seasonal, fresh and local produce into all school meals. We also assist with equipment upgrades and staff development days.
3rd graders receive three lessons throughout the school year that focus on increasing awareness of the different food groups. 6th graders receive three lessons that focus on making healthy choices within the different food groups and meal planning.
|Garden Based Learning
Kindergarten and first graders plant a salad garden and learn about plant parts. Fifth graders plant a Mars colony garden and learn about health, nutrition and seed saving.
|Green Ribbon Schools!
Green Team Teachers at each school develop site specific environmental activities such as how to separate trash for recycling, vermicomposting, ride or walk to school days and energy conservation.
4th graders take field trips to local farms to learn directly from the farmer about the joys and work involved in growing food.