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Food Appreciation for Kids

We have come a long way from the notion of knowing where our food comes from.

In America especially, there seems to be a drive-through for nearly everything. You don’t even have to leave your vehicle to have a full meal. Things like fast food restaurant signs are everywhere, and so begins the connection that this is an option where food can be obtained.

Concurrently, when you have budding readers, every opportunity to read is important. Things like environmental print, or printed words that are in everyday surroundings, provide reading material when children are out and about.

One study showed that 102 out of 228 children in early reading stages were able to recognize the majority of recurring labels in their environment.

The top read logo, which 210 out of the 228 were able to identify was a large, golden-arched restaurant chain.

Although environmental print on its own does not cause the onset of reading as concluded in this study, but rather it depends more on other associations with the labels, or contextual clues (Masonheimer, Drum & Ehri, 1984).

Researchers may disagree on the level that logos and this type of printed word plays in reading development. While it is a wonderful stage in early literacy when children are able to put together associations and build on them as they learn to read, it should be somewhat eye-opening that fast food signage is among the most recognized.

Since environmental print is such a readily available source, it brings up a question of how much marketing and an ‘all things now’ attitude has changed the nature of food in our fast paced society.

Although I have rolled through the food service window my fair share of times, when you are in the role of nutrition provider, you try and choose healthy options most of the time. Teaching children about agriculture and smart food choices is needed more than ever, considering rising health problems that are related to poor nutrition. Children need to learn about where their food originates in order to build a lasting appreciation for its production and the sustenance it provides.

One such effort is the National Farm to School Network, which is a not-for-profit organization that helps American schools pair up with local farms in order to promote healthy concepts around eating and provide educational resources revolving around agriculture and nutrition. They work with communities, keeping specific regional needs and agronomic availability in mind, and partner with businesses to spread the word about the importance of proper nutrition for promoting optimal growth and development.

It is refreshing to learn about associations that proactively work to make a difference in the way children receive and perceive nutrition.

The combination of farmer appreciation, greener agricultural techniques and involving future generations in the cultivation process is a promising sign of its own.

Source: Masonheimer, P., Drum, P. & Ehri, L. (1984). Does Environmental Print Identification Lead Children Into Word Reading? Journal of Reading Behavior. V XVI(4). Retrieved from: http://jlr.sagepub.com/content/16/4/257.full.pdf

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