Unit 2: Nourishment for People and Planet

Unit 2 delves into the connection between our own health and the health of society and of the environment. Behind every meal is a story, and this Unit gives students help in understanding the pathways their food takes to their plate. While agricultural practices and ethics are introduced and discussed, the lectures bring students back to the small and vital nutrients in food—vitamins and minerals—and to the ingredients and information hidden in the label. “Nourishing People and Planet” broadens our understanding of nutrition.

Earth from SpaceTHE LECTURES briefly review Unit 1 material—proteins, carbohydrates and fats—then focus on vitamins and minerals, their sources, functions and allowances. Salt receives a spotlight, as it is so often over-used or used unconsciously. After vitamins and minerals, there is a Power Point lecture on Reading Labels, a critically important activity that requires some skill and knowledge. Discussions and Activities are placed throughout the lectures to aid the teacher in making lectures more engaging.

View two sample slides from the Reading labels lecture.

THE READINGS are from Michael Pollan’s groundbreaking work, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which describes the back trail of the foods we chose to purchase and eat. Pollan points out that many of our foods have high corn content because of the multitude of processed ingredients derived from corn or corn-fed animals. The chapters detail modern agricultural methods such as industrial corn monoculture and giant animal feedlots and also describe the sustainable, multi-faceted farm of Joe Salatin, which is based on grasses not corn.  The readings give the student knowledge of how food is produced as well as the hidden costs of its production.

STUDY QUESTIONS guide students through the text, and can be used to facilitate class discussions.

THE RECIPES in Unit 2 use slightly more advanced cooking techniques and focus on down-home staples. We strongly recommend sourcing foods from organic and local farms or from food co-ops that do. Be sure to read through the “Teaching Kitchen Guide” and the recipes before starting the class!

Cornbread with Corn
Pasta Fagioli Soup
Roasted Chicken with Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Butter Sautéed Carrots
Steamed Broccoli with either Nutritional Yeast Gravy or Lemon Butter
Salad and Salad Dressings
Pumpkin Bars, Cream Cheese Frosting
Overnight Pizza Dough
Pesto Pizza with Chicken
Crepes with Fruit
Teriyaki Broiled Fish with Seasoned Brown Rice
Chocolate Birthday Cake, Chocolate Frosting
Lasagna
Macaroni & Cheese, White Cheddar Sauce

ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS to accompany this course are a field trip to a local supermarket and food coop to complete a worksheet on reading labels and, a perennial favorite (especially for parents!), an assignment in which students make dinner for their family and document the experience.