Harmons employee Mariah Christiansen teaches children at Hillside Elementary about healthy foods.
Never mind the Food Network, the thousands of food blogs, the glossy food magazines on the newsstands. Part of the obesity problem stems from the simple fact that somehow, over a couple of generations, American have forgotten how to plan, cook and serve family meals.
"What's an example of healthy food?" asks Mariah Christianson, the Harmons employee who is teacher for the day at Hillside Elementary in Granite School District.
"A food that's good," answers one child.
"Right. And what's an example of a food that's good?"
"A candy bar."
Mariah takes a different tack. "What's healthier, an apple or a candy bar?"
Teaching children what is healthy for them and what foods are nutritious used to be a parent's job, taught largely by example. But these days, says Jolynn Koehler, a Hillside first-grade teacher, "A lot of this isn't learned at home."
This is the third year Koehler's first graders have had Teach to Taste as part of their regular curriculum, and she loves the program. cooerativelly developed by Harmons and Utah Slow Food's Christi Paulson (herself an elementary school teacher), Teach to Taste is a year-long program designed to teach kids basic nutrition, how taste works and where their food comes from. In 2010, Paulson received the 2010 Agriculture in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award, and Teach to Taste sprang form the classroom practices for which she received this award.
Today, Koehler's 22 first-graders each received a Harmons chef apron and their first packet of information. They take a pledge to follow safety rules in the kitchen, to wash their hands before handling food (this involves an enthusiastic pantomime of turning on imaginary faucets and scrubbing hands while singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star") and try to at least a taste of everything offered in the class.
They taste the difference between sour (lime juice), salty (pretzels), bitter (a - surprise! - dark chocolate chip, and 22 dismayed faces) and sweet (yay! Swedish gummy fish). After today, they will study and taste four different types of a single food each month - four berries, four kinds of apples and so on. The team is taught by Harmons employees, who are paid for their time by the store, and Teach to Taste is now in 13 schools.