Many Americans are confused about what to eat, where to buy it, and how to prepare it. Our food culture—the wisdom and cooking skills handed down from generation to generation—is under assault by highly processed food and our growing reliance on institutions to provide it. The erosion of our food culture not only makes us sick, it also denies us the comfort, the joy of discovery, and the sense of belonging that a food culture provides.

Too many children, and oftentimes their parents, don’t know how good real food tastes. The Good Food Project directly addresses this issue by bringing real food, with its incomparable flavors, into Chicago-area classrooms, after-school programs, and summer camps for children and teens to taste and explore.

We began with apple tastings in 2008, and as we enter the 2013-2014 school year, we’ve conducted tastings for close to 16,000 students. Our interactive food tastings incorporate language arts, social studies, science, and health into the lessons.

When students and teachers asked for new lessons, we added citrus and summer fruit tastings, and we recently launched an avocado and vegetable tasting. And, at Sullivan High School in Rogers Park, we’re working with staff and students to create a healthy food culture for everyone in the school: This project includes a student-operated fruit stand where students can buy high quality fresh and dried fruit.

Apples

Apples are the perfect vehicle to introduce children to new foods. A symbol of school and learning, they are familiar, come in hundreds of varieties, and made into slinkies, are almost magical. Children of all ages love becoming “food critics” by learning vocabulary, tasting, comparing, and choosing their favorite apples. After an apple tasting, children are eager to try other new foods.

Orange & Citrus

Oranges that are red and pink inside, zipper-skin mandarins, and giant pummelos are some of the citrus varieties kids experience in our citrus lessons. The Good Food Project received support from Paramount Citrus to conduct citrus tastings for 3,000 elementary school children in the winter of 2011. At these tastings, students learn vocabulary and fun facts about citrus; taste; compare; and take home valuable coupons for “Cuties” so they can share the fun with their families.

Avocados

We select only healthy, delicious foods to include in our tastings. So, we are thrilled that Avocados From Mexico is on board to sponsor tastings that include awesome avocados. We plan to roll out these lessons in early 2013.

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