Food Is Elementary

Food is Elementary is a program of the Food Studies Institute, Inc. (www.foodstudies.org), a national non-profit organization based in Trumansburg, NY focused on improving the health destinies of children through innovative hands-on food and nutrition education. This groundbreaking curriculum is widely regarded by nutrition & health professionals as one of the most effective approaches to encouraging students to eat foods that protect them from developing chronic diet-related diseases. The Food is Elementary (FIE) curriculum is the life-long work of Dr. Antonia Demas that she developed to educate children about nutrition by providing a positive experience of food and food preparation that is fun, hands-on and sensory-based. This work was the basis of her award-winning Ph.D. research study at Cornell University.

FIE has been taught in more than 3,000 schools across the United Stated and around the world and was re-introduced in the Trumansburg Elementary School five years ago with all teachers requesting the program each week. FIE has contributed to improving student nutrition education, developed a collaborative relationship with the cafeteria staff with plans to introduce FIE recipes in the lunch menu, and developed a garden and outdoor classroom with plans for a school orchard.

FIE does more than teach children about healthy eating – it improves their eating behaviors. It empowers them to make good food choices by providing accurate information about the link between food and disease prevention. This program also provides students with the life skill of food preparation through hands-on interactive experience. FIE has documented results from research-based studies include the development of preference for fruits, vegetables and whole foods over processed foods, reduced Body Mass Index, improved general health within weeks of educational intervention and parents choosing healthier foods due to the influence of their children, and introduction of curriculum foods into the school lunch program.

Together with FIE, the Food Studies Institute has developed a garden at the Elementary School, which is an important part of the food education program providing an opportunity for hands-on learning. Trumansburg Elementary School was recently selected as one of 50 award winners from a pool of more than 3,000 inspiring applicants for the 2013 Subaru Healthy Sprouts Garden Grants administered by the National Gardening Association and funded by Subaru of America. Trumansburg Elementary School is one of three to receive a $1,500 Grand Prize. The Food Studies Institute submitted the proposal to continue and expand its vision of the school garden as an outdoor lab integrated with FIE curriculum.

According to the National Gardening Association, the Trumansburg garden program was selected “because of the exceptional nature of the work you are doing to enhance the lives of youth and the community in your area. The application you submitted provided a combination of clearly stated goals, organized planning for your garden, well developed plans for incorporating health and nutrition into the curriculum.  We are delighted to have this opportunity to support your garden education program and we are excited to hear how your program uses the award to enhance the experience of students and participants.”  Being a top winner of this long standing program highlights the important work that the Food Studies Institute, Dr. Demas and the Trumansburg Central School District are doing together.

The Trumansburg Elementary School garden education program will be featured in the Kids Garden News, a publication of the National Gardening Association, in the near future. The award will provide a variety of gardening supplies so that different cultivation techniques can be experimented with in the garden.

Unfortunately, full funding for the program following the 2013-2014 school year has not been achieved. Long-term funding is necessary for the program to be financially sustainable. The cost of the program includes the food educator, materials and equipment, and ongoing curriculum development and training of the food educators and cafeteria staff.

Recognizing the educational benefits of the Food is Elementary program and its overwhelming popularity with Trumansburg students and families, the TCSD Foundation has partnered with the Food Studies Institute to raise the funds necessary to continue the program and to make it a permanent part of student education in the Trumansburg Central School District, pre-K – 12th grade.

Beginning in December 2013 and throughout this spring, the TCSD Foundation conducted a crowdfunding campaign to raise over $8,450 for FIE. This amount includes a matching grant by the TCSD Foundation of $3,000 and a donation by the Trumansburg ShurSave of all of the food required for the program for this school year valued at $1,500.

“Crowdfunding … describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. – Wikipedia.

Fundraising continues through grant requests to local and national foundations, in addition to the USDA Farm to School program. Working with the school district and BOCES, the Food Studies Institute has obtained funding of some costs of FIE in Trumansburg and will now be able to offer FIE in additional school districts in Tompkins County.

This tremendous effort to make FIE permanent in our Elementary School, to extend it to our Middle School and High School, and create a national model for food education requires support of the entire community to be a success. Please consider being a champion for this important cause by making a pledge or contribution to the TCSD Foundation.