For far too many children of color, the cultural food traditions they grew up overshadowed General advice on food and nutrition from their schools and doctors. But that landscape is changing, as teachers and authors put cultural food traditions at the center of childhood education.
“At the age of four, I got it first cavityAnd I really enjoyed the desserts. My son was healthy eating. So I wanted to create a character that would inspire her to become a healthy eater too,” Stephenson recalls.
Storytelling to celebrate cultural food traditions
In Stevenson’s story, Little Wanda goes on an adventure to heal her wounds from Nana diabetic with traditional african food. “At WANDA, we recognize that our food is our medicine but also our identity. Adding humanity to our food culture is critical to building self-esteem and cultural pride.
Sarah Thomas, author and co-founder ofKalamata Kitchen“ A book series, expressing a similar commitment to celebrating cultural food traditions with young readers. “The stories we share are culturally specific and experiential. The Indian cooking in the first book is inspired by my own memories, and the Malaysian Baba Nyonya style in the second by Chef Keo Bang. But the messages are universal. It’s a way to celebrate and honor a unique identity while highlighting what we have in common,” says Thomas. .
“If a character like Kalamata existed when I was a kid, I know that she could have helped me see myself, my food, my culture as something to celebrate rather than something to suppress for the sake of conformity. I think, more roughly and most importantly, it would have helped the children around me see this. The ‘unconventional’ dark-skinned, big-haired little girl as a friend and a hero. They were probably more inclined to ask about my lunchtime food than to make fun of it. I never want a child to feel ashamed of who they are or that they have to change themselves to be more accepting” .
Cultural foods in nutrition programming
For organizations working in the field of food and nutrition, it is important that programs include and even emphasize cultural foods. Children’s taste of African heritagea seven-week cooking and nutrition curriculum for children ages 8 to 12 that offers healthy children of all backgrounds, vegetarian foods that come from all over the African diaspora. The Common Core Alignment Program, which also meets SHAPE America’s fitness standards, was first introduced by Oldways in 2018 as an offshoot of SNAP-Ed Approved Taste of African Heritage Program For adults, it has continued to make an impact in the years since. One 12-year-old participant wrote, “I’ve always liked food from my heritage, and (now) I think I like it more.”
In Hawaii, food advocates are also exploring how connecting children to their roots can be used to address food security. “Kai and Hōkū Explore Hawaiian Food It offers small, digestible lessons for each of the eight foods featured in the book, most of which have strong cultural ties to both ancient and modern Hawaiian farm history,” explains Chelsea Takahashi, director of Healthy Food Access Initiatives at The Food Basket, the food bank on the island of Hawaii.
Takahashi hopes that “the immediate effect of reading our books is that it will help their parents identify and shop for local (qualified) fruits and vegetables.”
Cultivate curiosity through food adventures
Takahashi explains that one of their motivations in creating Kai and Hōkū Explore Foods of Hawaii was to make trying new foods fun.
“Once we can instill this positive sense of exploration in young children, we know that it opens their minds to forming deeper ideas and conversations about how food relates to many aspects of their lives, including their health, environmentand identity and community,” says Takahashi. “My hope is for kids who read Kai and Hōkū Explore Foods of Hawaii to gain a lifelong sense of exploration in all aspects of their lives, but especially with the foods and recipes they try.”
This mentality is also reflected in the “Kalamata Kitchen”. “We strongly believe that children who grow up with a sense of curiosity through food will naturally be more open people — and that openness leads to a greater sense of respect for differences and empathy for people whose lives are different than ours,” Thomas explains. The unfamiliar by trying new food will be able to approach the unfamiliar in other ways with a sense of adventure and anticipation rather than automatically fear, hate or mistrust.”
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