Excitement and energy revolve around early childhood educational settings. It’s the same energy you may feel from taking a bite of fresh citrus fruit or from the warmth of the sun. I walk into a Head Start classroom and receive smiles, screams, hugs and so much excitement and energy!
I am so grateful to support this positive energy in various early childhood classrooms throughout Northeast Iowa, as a service member with Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. As the first FoodCorps Iowa service member dedicated specifically to early childhood settings, I have the pure joy of planting the seeds of ideas for young children about real food and active living.
It’s so crazy that this school year is quickly winding down. I have witnessed so much growth and development among the hundreds of three- to five-year-olds that I’ve worked with this year. As much as I feel that I have taught them, they have taught me so much more in return. I’ve learned to be more patient, to speak with more confidence, to laugh at the little things and to try new foods without a single fear in the world.
I’ve also witnessed the very real injustices in our food system, the struggle, the defeat, the fight but also the bliss, willingness to learn and try new things, and the strength of families and communities when they come together around good food.
It’s been rewarding to look back on this school year and witness kids confidently answering my questions about where their food comes from. I think that has been the most important thing I’ve taught them. It may be a simple message, but knowing where their food comes from links them to the Earth and to each other.
As I have absorbed all of this energy from these kids, I move forward with them through the seasons of spring and early summer. I am excited for them to get into the dirt, try more new foods and see firsthand where their food comes from by getting involved with school gardens. It will be the best connection yet to what we’ve been learning about this school year.
With the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, I follow their early childhood curriculum and create my own unique lessons based on a “Harvest of the Month” food. Looking back on the year, we’ve learned about and tasted apples, cauliflower, squash, potatoes, yogurt, eggs, oats and cucumber.
Rounding out the year with asparagus next month, the kids have been introduced to many new local foods and the teachers have learned about how food can be directly connected to curriculum and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math)-centered learning. Because of this farm to early childhood program, kids are learning about where their food comes from — and also how to count! They’re learning about how to take care of plants — and also how to hypothesize. They’re trying new foods and new learning styles and techniques. They’re not only learning about food but beyond that they’re growing and developing essential skills.
Thanks to farm to early childhood lessons and the work of programs like FoodCorps and the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, I am witnessing the growth and development of these young children right along with the growth of our sprouting spring plants. I can’t wait to watch them bloom together!