1. Awareness

The first step to becoming a wellness champion

 1: How Schools Can Help?

Schools have always played a role in helping to shift cultural attitudes and behaviors.  Be it civil rights, gender equality or other important social justice issues, schools are platforms for change.  Similarly, schools have an important role to play in helping to change society’s perceptions about our relationship with food.  We can more effectively leverage the time students, teachers and parents already spend at school to find simple avenues for engaging individuals in learning about food literacy, while helping to adopt and institute new patterns of behaviors.

Unfortunately, schools are often complicit in creating environments that discourage healthy eating and overall wellness. Uninspiring cafeteria offerings, competitive food sales, special event celebrations and fundraising activities that hinge on increased junk food consumption, lack of staff wellness programming and an absence of food literacy curricula, does not promote a culture of health and wellness.

In response, the FoodFight food literacy toolkit provides school stakeholders with resources geared toward introducing food literacy education and increasing food literacy awareness for all members of the school community. 

2: What is “Food Literacy?”

Humans need to eat.  Knowing what foods increase the quality and quantity of human (and our planet’s) life is an important life skill.  We refer to “Food Literacy” as the ability to track the progress of food from farm to table and to understand and articulate the impact of food choices on:  human health, animal welfare, the environment and on our communities.


3: Why do we need a food literacy toolkit?

While it is true that schools have a critical role to play in improving the health and wellness of their community members, the fact remains that schools and school staff are often overwhelmed by the enormous task of working to overcome many social justice inequities while meeting increasingly onerous high stakes academic assessment standards.

Often plagued by limited economic resources, overworked and underpaid staff and aging infrastructure, it is understandable that wellness initiatives get put on the back burner. The FoodFight food literacy toolkit is a resource designed to help make the process of creating a culture of health and wellness at your school less daunting.  Designed by long-time educators, it provides users with a practical and cost-effective step-by-step approach for creating engagement among the entire school community.  If we can activate the interest and commitment of schools across the country, we can begin to leverage the enormous power that students, parents and teachers have to effect change in the food system.

4: Facts About Obesity

Use these facts to bolster any written materials or presentations required to get funding, support or interest for school wellness initiatives.

 20 states have adult obesity rates of 30% or higher

 20 years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15%

 Today, there are 41 states with obesity rates over 25%

 As of 2014 – 34.9% of American adults are obese and 68.5% are obese or overweight

 1/3 of America’s children are overweight or obese

 The numbers are higher in low- income neighborhoods - closer to 50% in African American, Native American and Latino populations

 Obesity is linked to more than 60 chronic diseases: like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, goat, joint deterioration

 Obesity related medical treatments cost between $147 and $210 billion a year, or nearly 15% of all annual medical spending

 Researchers estimate that if obesity trends continue, obesity related medical costs cost rise by $45 - $65 billion each year by 2030

 We spend $14.3 billion on childhood obesity costs. We lose $164 billion in productivity each year due to obesity-related issues with employers

 Per capita medical spending is $2,741 higher for people with obesity than for normal weight individuals

 According to the U.S.D.A healthier diets could prevent at least $71 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity and lost lives

 About 45 million Americans diet every year and spend approximately $30 billion on products to lose weight or prevent weight gain

5: Industrial Food Landscape

This series of infographics provides an excellent overview of the various components that comprise the industrial food landscape.  They can be referenced individually or viewed together, as a whole.

6: What does a Food Literate Person Need to Know?

A food literate person is able to:

 List and discuss the people and processes that define the lifecycle of food: growing, harvesting, transporting, processing, packaging, selling, eating and disposing.
 Understand the difference between and the consequences of sustainable versus industrial agricultural.
 Articulate the economic and environmental impact of eating seasonally.
 Understand the distinction between whole and processed food.
 Understand the relationship between food and health outcomes.
 Possess basic shopping and cooking skills.  
    Shopping: dodging consumertraps at the supermarket such as:  label decoding, functional food claims, false advertising, couponing and other store based sales strategies. 
    Cooking: the ability to prepare simple, nutritious and cost effective meals – primarily using whole foods and natural ingredients.

7: Why Food Literacy Matters?

Watch this video to see a short but compelling argument for why it is critical that we get this important information into the hands of students, teachers and staff.

More than 70% of our country is overweight or obese. Lifestyle related disease like heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes kill more Americans than smoking. In short, what we eat is directly tied both to the quality and quantity of our lifespan. The current industrial food system is responsible for creating more greenhouse gas (warming the planet) than our transportation system, uses unimaginable quantities of water and degrades the quality of our air, water and soil. For years, the industrial food industry has been able to misinform and mislead us into believing the food they sell, as an example, improves our lives, strengthens our immune systems, helps kids do better in school, makes us more regular, or just plain makes us happy. We are now learning the sad truth: most processed food does just the opposite. If you believe that “we are what we eat,” it’s no wonder that so many of us walk around feeling sick, tired, malnourished and uncomfortable.

Developing food literacy skills means gaining an understanding of how a variety of social, political, economic and environmental forces inform our food choices. With a working knowledge of food literacy, people can see how marketing and advertising shape what we eat and buy and how directly our media diet drives our food diet. Consumers can learn how to debunk misleading food advertising, decode food labels and amass easy strategies for incorporating real food into busy lifestyles. In short, food literacy puts the power back into the hands of the consumer. If enough of us come together to demand better food options – truly better, not false claims based on advertising campaigns – then, the system will begin to improve. Whole food will be more readily available (and eventually, less expensive) and processed food offerings will reflect the needs and interests of the educated food consumer. Politicians will be held accountable for voting to protect special interests and subsidizing commodity crops (like wheat, corn, soy and sugar) instead of supporting fruit and vegetables growers, and the government will be held accountable for protecting the rights of giant food companies instead of our public health interests.

As Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  With enough of us fighting together, we will begin to see change. Join us. Join the FoodFight.

 8: Quiz

Welcome to your Awareness Quiz

1) How many pounds of food do Americans throw out every month?

2) How many gallons of water does it take to produce a hamburger?

3) How many teaspoons of sugar are in a 20oz bottle of soda?

4) Pork sold with a label that reads “All Natural” and “No Hormones” is produced without any added chemicals, steroids or antibiotics?

5) How many food ads does the average kid see every year?

6) A label that says “Whole Grain” is primarily made from whole wheat?

7) Food companies engineer food to be addictive by adding what three ingredients?

8) How much money is spent by companies on food and beverage marketing to kids?

9) How many cows might go into one hamburger?

10) How much of each dollar spent on food goes to the farmer or farm workers?