The theme for the month is, “Meet everyone’s basic needs in a dignified way: Food Justice.” Here are some ideas for reading with, talking to, and taking action with your youngsters. In the upcoming weeks we will be sharing our stories of what we have tried with our kids and how it has gone. Please share books, ideas, and resources that you have found helpful.
Reading to young ones:
- “Spuds” by Karen Hesse. preK-5th.
- “Amelia’s Road” by Linda Jacobs Altman. preK-4th.
- “The Can Man” by Laura E. Williams. K-6th.
- “Harvesting Hope: The story of Cesar Chavez” by Kathleen Krull, K-6th
Reading for pre-teens and teens:
- “Song of the Trees” by Mildred Taylor
- “Just Juice” by Karen Hesse
- “Invitation to the Game” by Monica Hughs
Questions to ask during or after reading: link for more questions
- How is this similar to your life? How is it different?
- Who is your favorite character in this book?
- If you were ________ how do you think you would have felt?
- What do you wish was different in this book?
- What is one big lesson you learned from this book?
Talking about the social justice principle: Meet everyone’s basic needs in a dignified way. Focus on food.
- What do we need to live? (In my house Legos and poop will be top answers to this question!) How do we meet those needs in our house? (Every family has different responses to this question – talk as openly as you can about where the resources in your family come from – wages, salary, inheritance, social services. Even as young as three they can talk about this.This is part of removing secrecy, stigma, shame, and guilt around money and moving towards transparency and empowerment.)
- What does dignified mean? “I feel good about how my needs are met.” Often this is connected to whether or not we have decision-making power.
- In this house do we all feel good about the house we live in? the food we are eating? Our personal safety? If not, what would make us feel good? (Take their answers seriously. And share your true answers.)
- How about in our community? How about the world?
- What can WE do to work for a world where everyone’s basic needs are met in a way that makes them feel good? See below for some ideas and resources.
We might not know the answers to these questions ourselves. That is ok. We are learning along with our kids. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
What can WE do? I was brought up volunteering at soup kitchens, donating to the local food shelf, walking in hunger walks, getting donations for global hunger through the heifer project. These actions are important. People are hungry now and engaging with our kids in recognizing this and responding is important. AND there must be action for system change so people aren’t hungry in the first place. I am thinking now about how to engage my children at all levels. Here’s some actions we can take with our kids to bring about food justice…
Taking Action for Food Justice Note: Many of the links I’ve included are in Vermont because that’s where I live. Look for similar programs where you live – or start something up!
- Learn how to grow food ourselves – start a garden – whether it’s one pot on our porch, planting out our whole backyard, or joining a community garden. Tips for gardening with kids. And here’s a practical resource. Growing food is connected to social justice because we are taking our dollars out of a food industry that harms people and the planet. When we grow food and/or buy food from people we know, we can be sure the food we are putting in our bodies isn’t harming people or the planet. This isn’t always possible because of cost and available resources, but see #2 for ways the community is supporting this change. Remember – Jan & Feb are the perfect time to start planning your spring garden. In the northeast (USA) many things can be planted in April.
- Think with your kids about the foods you buy and where they come from. Use the Environmental Working Group’s guides to help you out.
- Support community gardening efforts for low-income neighborhoods, both with time and money. There are small organizations around the country engaging in this exciting work. Here’s an example from NYC.
- Or support a garden at your kids’ school.
- Donate to subsidized farm CSA shares – like NOFA’s share the harvest.
- Think creatively with other community members about what can be done – Starting a Community Kitchen would be super cool!
Food System Change:
- Appreciate the people who grow our food. Become a regular at the farmers’ market. Get to know the migrant workers in your town.
- Support their efforts for a fair and just food system – www.ruralvermont.org and www.migrantjustice.net You can donate, show up at rallies, volunteer in many ways.
- Check out this list of food justice websites around the US and world. And here’s another great list of resources for food system change.
Economic System Change:
- Support efforts for system change so that people are not hungry in the first place. Show up at rallies for www.Fightfor15.org and other livable wage campaigns.
- Donate to global fights for land and water rights like the work of www.grassrootsinternational.org If your kids are older you might consider taking a solidarity trip together. Grassroots International has annuals trips to learn from and support people who are making change around the world.