When armed with information, people can make decisions that are rational. When it comes to food, students may not even realize that information is available to make decisions and that the choices they make have far ranging consequences. It can be argued that many adults don't know where their food comes from so it is not farfetched to think that urban students, with nary a field or production animal in sight, know where that burger and fries came from. The Emmy Award winning television program staring Jamie Oliver called "Food Revolution" illustrated this when he held up a potato and asked what could be made from this. They didn't even recognize it as a potato! The kids being asked were elementary school kids but my experience with high school students indicates that there are still many misconceptions and lack of knowledge about what is involved in bringing the immense variety of food that is available to them from seed to plate and how this process uses enormous amounts of non-renewable energy and natural resources.
Sound School is a regional vocational aquaculture school. Included in the population are a group of students who have expressed an interest in agriculture. They come to Sound School for a variety of reasons that range from wanting to attend a smaller school in an urban district to genuinely having an interest in animals or plants. Being from an urban environment, they come to the class with limited information or misconceptions about where their food comes from. This unit is designed for these students so that they may make real world connections between the material they learned in the greenhouse and lifestyle decisions. Future developments in the unit will further explore animal production for the students whose interest is in animals.
The process by which food comes to our table is often referred to as the food cycle and in modern agriculture it is quite complex. Consequently, this unit will address only two components of the cycle; transportation and production. Transportation refers to the movement of the product from its point of origin to the consumer. Production refers to the method used to grow the food to market weight, size or volume. As consumers, we make our first choice about food when we decide what and where to purchase. Food selection and understanding where it was produced geographically allows the consumer, in this case the student, to have some impact on how far it travels to the plate for a given time of year. When we decide where we purchase our food we are making choices not only about how far it traveled but how it was produced; hence, the second part of the unit which is production. There have been immense changes in the way our food is being produced to feed an ever increasing population. How the food is grown can have an impact on the environment, energy use and health. This unit can be further expanded to include more components of the food cycle.