Week 5: Grace R Morrissey – Reality Bites

Questioning what school children in your community eat for lunch starts off that kind of a conversation that I personally find valuable in this day and age where people can either get desensitized by too much information with no real-world connection or can just seek to affirm their biases and agenda by paying attention only to information they are already prepared to believe in.

Quite apart from its intrinsic value of promoting children’s health, this is that kind of an issue that re-anchors people to reality and cuts through all the slag (I intended to use a stronger word that may not be appropriate) that happens when you’re just plugged in to a lot of secondary or self-reflexive experiences and regurgitated wisdom from the things you watch, read and hear and not out there engaging other people and taking action.

If you just want to know about childhood nutrition, there are probably tens of thousands of websites out there which will not only tell you about the food pyramid but provide copious interpretations and recommendations. But who’s paying attention? Certainly not the children.

As gardening teacher Rivka Mason from the Malcolm X Elementary School observes in one of the “Lunch Love Community” project videos, when you transfer information just by loading data into a student’s head, what goes to one ear usually goes out the other.

She mentioned a couple of key words, “kinesthetic” and “tactile,” to explain another way of learning. “If they actually get it in their bodies, their hands  and their senses, they absorb it.”

Even the new school superintendent who was adamantly opposed to the project only relented when she was confronted by the death from diabetes of a child in the community … not just any kid but someone who studied and ate the lunch in her school cafeteria.

It was also quite amazing what happens when people cluster around an issue that has a real context in their lives. Shots of personal ideologies become therapeutic doses of reality.

Another telling comment in one of the videos is how the community members who first got together for the project came to the table with one-track minds — focused on their personal pet causes like veganism and eating food free from growth hormones — but eventually managed to come down from their lofty ideological perches to take part in addressing a real-world concern.

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