Thank you for joining the Partners in Health and Wholeness Book Club. You can officially sign-up here. Through it, we hope to engage people of faith in discussions over why our health matters. Our current choice of reading is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. Just look for the picture of the apple and the books and you will find past Book Club entries.
One thing I love about reading Barbara Kingsolver’s work is her ability to sum up complex problems in the world of food with zingers that cut right to the core. These one-liners add new perspectives that challenge me to rethink my own assumptions and my relationship with food. While the majority of this chapter is about heritage breed turkeys, in the middle she discusses school gardening programs, like the one at her daughter’s school. It is used to help the kids study for their state’s required testing. She points out that our values in schools may often be missing the mark. “…Our operating system values Advanced Placement Comparative Politics, for example, way ahead of Knowing How to Make Your Own Lunch…Many teenagers who could construct and manage a Web site would starve if left alone on a working food farm.”
Of course, this is not the fault of these children and teenagers, who are the product of a system which has progressed beyond the ordinary work of food production and is moving forward at an unsustainable pace. While it is a gift that we do not all have to devote our entire lives to putting food on the table, it is alarming to be reminded of how fragile this food system truly is. It is dependent on soil that is being depleted, land that is being developed, a diversity of species (both plant and animal) that is quickly dwindling, not to mention an aging farmer population and lack of knowledge of food production in the rest of the population. We may be setting ourselves up for a big fall if we have no knowledge of how to feed ourselves without the grocery, convenience store, or drive through.
One exciting aspect of school garden programs is they offer a both/and solution — students continue to learn the standards and subjects currently agreed upon in our school system through gardening. It is also a hands-on method to experience learning, from the kindergarteners studying colors in a flower garden to a colonial herb garden used to teach the older kids history. As Kingsolver points out, it is also a plus to have kids studying for a test when they think they are just playing in the dirt, being physically active on top of it all. Sounds like a win-win to me.
- Did you learn about gardening in school? How did this help prepare you for state standardized testing, even if the test did not cover gardening? Do you have children who have experienced gardening curricula?
- What wild plants grow near you? Would you know how to identify them or prepare them if you needed to?
- Would you like to read more about school garden programs? Here is one resource. Some counties also have a school garden through the County Cooperative Extension Office, like this one.
- Are you involved with a school that has a garden? Please share your insights below!
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.