Rediscover the Culture in Agriculture Dana Martin

Throughout this page, I am going to document my experience with local, organic farms in Phoenix, Arizona and San Severino Marche, Italy.

During the Spring 2018 semester, I worked closely with a local farmer, Maya Dailey, on Maya's Farm in South Phoenix. My tasks varied with the day but included weeding rows by hand or with a hula-hoe, preparing CSA pick ups, planting seeds, and working the farmer's market. Throughout the experience, I was able to gain insight from Maya on her perspective as a small-scale, certified organic, woman farmer. However, it did not take long to realize that Maya reaches far beyond the title of farmer and into the realm of community advocate and educator with her strong connections to the local Slow Food chapter and the Farm to School Movement.

During the month of June, I had the great fortune of going to San Severino Marche, Italy to work on another organic farm, Biocontadino, with young farmer Vittorio Giacomini. Much of the tasks were similar to Maya's Farm like weeding, planting, and selling produce at the market. However, that is not to say there were not evident differences. In addition, our group visited and toured an organic winery, ColleStefano, as well as an organic agriturismo that produced grains and olives, Fattoria Le Origini. With each encounter, it became increasingly apparent that good food production was a source of profound pride in Italy and that it was not so much a career path as it was a lifestyle. In fact, this idea of food as a lifestyle could be seen embedded in Italian culture everywhere that I went.

United States

What influences the foods we consume?
How is this impacting Health and wellness?
In what ways are schools helping or harming this development?

These are all questions that have been running through my mind after becoming familiar with our current food system through the lens of sustainability. Over the past century, our agricultural practices have dramatically transformed with the help of greater reliance on technological inputs. While we may have more food, we are not necessarily well nourished. In fact, obesity has been a growing epidemic in the US (as well as across the world) since the shift in agricultural practices. We are surrounded by quick, convenient options that play on our instinctual cravings for salt, sugar, and fat. Unfortunately, as we all know, obesity leads to a litany of chronic illnesses that shorten life expectancy, lower quality of life, and decrease likelihood of social and personal success.

With this in mind, it becomes apparent that the resiliency of our country depends on a solution to this problem. In order to combat the issue of obesity, we must start from one of the many root causes, food preferences, which begin taking shape at a young age. Currently, children are subjected to an overload of marketing schemes and advertisements for highly processed food. Meanwhile, school lunch programs fail to provide healthy, nutritious options in most cases. It is no wonder we are facing an epidemic.

However, a means of intervention does exist: edible education. This approach teaches students about where their food comes from, how to grow it themselves, what is nutritious and what is not, and how to make their own meals. Not only would this improve the likelihood of the students adopting healthier lifestyles, it also brings about a connection to the Earth, themselves and their community while instilling the confidence that they can, in fact, do something to change the world.

Crash Course: Our Food System

Since WWII, agriculture has made a grand transformation. Instead of relying on human and animal labor, today's agriculture relies on heavy machinery, oil, and synthetic inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Because of this shift, modern farmers are able to produce more yield than at any other time in history. However, this increase in yield does not come without a cost to the environment. While farmers use more intensive means of production that require less land for the same amount of yield, agriculture is still a leading cause of deforestation in places with precious ecosystem services like the Amazon Rainforest or Southeast Asia. Due to the intensive use of land, the soil quickly becomes degraded and eventually leads to desertification which can make the land infertile. As Vandana Shiva said in the video above the food system as it currently stands produces "food empty of nutrients but loaded with toxics."

In addition to the changes in food production methodology, there has been a simultaneous shift in governmental food policy. Today America subsidizes commodity crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, dairy and livestock. From 2005 to 2010, $170 billion was spent supporting these crops (Aubery, 2016). One key player in the formation of our current subsidy driven agriculture was former Secretary of Agriculture under President Nixon: Earl Butz. During his time in office, Butz promoted "get big or get out" policies that favored large scale operations and agribusiness. As a consequence, smaller family farms were forced out of the market. The large scale agriculture relies on the technological inputs that the post-WWII era made possible. Because of these inputs, farmers are able to plant one single crop like corn "fence row to fence row." With the subsidies, the price of these crops are able to remain low which allows food processing companies to transform them into packaged goods like Twinkies. For this reason, the unhealthy, processed foods end up being cheaper options than the fruits and vegetables that are essential to optimal health.

All in all, our current food system has provided us with an abundance of commodity crops; but at the same time, these crops and the methods in which they are produced are unsustainable and do not support the well being of humanity or the planet. Once confronted with the reality, it is not difficult to see the flaws in such a system. In fact, these flaws are so apparent that even kids like Birke Baehr are able to eloquently acknowledge them and desire change. It is important that more children are exposed to this reality, so that they too can push for a better, healthier future.

The Obesity Epidemic

Since the 70s, the prevalence of obesity has risen higher with each decade which is ironically about the same time that governmental policies began subsidizing the commodity crops that are used in cheap, convenient, packaged foods. Today, it is estimated that about 34% of adults and 15-20% of children and adolescents in the US struggle with obesity (Mitchell, Catenacci, Wyatt, and Hill, 2012). It has been found that children that are obese are ten times as likely to be obese as adults (Union for Concerned Scientists, 2015). This is due to food preferences that take shape at a young age.

Mitchell, Catenacci, Wyatt, and Hill, 2012

It is important to note that certain populations have higher rates of obesity than others such as those in lower socio-economic households. This is directly related to the cost of food and the lack of availability of fresh, healthy foods in these neighborhoods which can be summed up by the term food desert. In a food desert, there are not grocery stores within walking distance which limits the population's ability to access the healthier options available. Instead, these areas are overrun with fast food establishments and convenience stores that sell highly processed foods which are directly linked to the development of obesity. This results in a social injustice as these populations are disproportionately at risk of the complications (social, emotional and physical) that come along with obesity.

Rogers, 2012

The burden of obesity includes an increased risk in developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer among others. These diseases are among the top causes of death in the US. All together, they accounted for $147 billion in medical costs in 2008 (USDHH & USDA, n.d.). In addition to the toll on health and the cost associated, obesity can cause a lower quality of life, depression, bullying, and difficulty becoming successful in a chosen career. It also leads to a less productive society which can weaken the overall national economy.

School Lunch in America

Most Americans can agree that their experience in their school's lunchroom was not always pleasant and certainly did not compare to a home cooked meal. Some people may find a few items on the school menu nostalgic, but ultimately not many are willing to revisit that plate. Why is it that the state of school lunch has been so poor over the past few decades? Well, that goes back to the discussion on subsidized foods. Many of these foods are funneled into our public institutions including schools and prisons. Below is a comparison of the two and they are shockingly similar.

Savino, 2011

The current school lunch standards provide precise nutritional content requirements and detailed cost breakdown. The document mentions the desire to improve the quality of food served, but that statement is quickly undermined by the restrictions in cost. It is made clear that students must take a vegetable or fruit portion, but very rarely are these ingredients transformed into a dish that children might be interested in trying. Additionally, there is little mentioned in the document on methods to develop a willingness from students to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet. It is crucial to discover a new means of intervention when it come to fruits and vegetables. Currently, the average American child eats 1/3 of the daily recommended portion (Union for Concerned Scientists, 2015). Overall, the documents' rigidity leaves little room for lunch room staff's creativity to transform ingredients into delicious meals. Instead, they are left within the narrow confines nutritional and budget breakdowns.

Local School Lunch: Broadmor Elementary

Broadmor Elementary is a public school located in Tempe, AZ and below is a sample of the meals provided for lunch. While there are some options that are healthier, it seems that the unhealthy, processed options (pizza, cereal, french toast sticks, PB&J Smuckers, chicken tenders) have still made their way onto the menu. When these options are still made available, they reinforce unhealthy food preferences. If children are given free range of choice and have not been given the proper education on nutrition, then they will naturally gravitate towards the more sugary, processed options.

Side options

Solution: Edible Education

Lexicon of Food, n.d.

Alice Waters is the founder of Chez Pannise, a restaurant in Berkeley, CA, that has deep roots in the Slow Food Movement. When she noticed the sad state of the schoolyard on her route home from the restaurant, she needed to do something about it. At this time, she began the development of a school garden and called it "The Edible Schoolyard." She believes that children should "come back to their sense" and taste, touch, smell, and see the beauty of nature. Because of our dependence on fast, cheap, and easy foods, we have lost our sense of place and connection.

Alice Waters makes a clear distinction between fast food values and slow food values in her discussion at the Science and Food conference (Waters, 2013). Fast food degrades the human experience by emphasizing uniformity, efficiency, availability, cheapness, and that more is always better. They use dishonest techniques to confuse terminology like fresh, organic, and sustainable. On the other hand, slow food values ripeness, aliveness, beauty, patience, integrity, community, true economy, friendship, honesty, nurturing, enriching, and sustainability.

Edible education gives students a means to experience the world hands-on which can appeal to a variety of learners that may not find the classroom as engaging. The garden does not need to be thought of solely as an extracurricular activity as it can be incorporated into lessons across disciplines like math, science, art, and history. In addition, it helps to make agriculture a relevant cultural idea once again which can assist the reintegration of farming and agriculture into the children's cultural identity as they cultivate relationships to the land, plants, and animals. Instead of feeling disconnected from the where food comes from, they will be made aware of the importance of this knowledge and feel the empowerment such knowledge brings about.

In the video, she mentions how children remember all of the processes of working in the garden well without needing much instruction. It is because they learn by doing. They enjoy putting their hands in the dirt and watching a seed grow into a harvestable fruit. When they watch this process, it gives them pride and makes them more willing to taste new fruits and vegetables. Overall, it reconnects children to the Earth, but also to themselves and their community.

Local Edible Education: Broadmor Elementary

Google Maps, 2018

Broadmor Elementary has been able to integrate edible education into their school with the help of two passionate volunteers and a community dedicated to enriching the lives of their children. While their federally funded lunch program provides products of subsidized agriculture, the interaction with the garden will help to gravitate students toward the salad bar because they played an integral role in the production of the ingredients. The healthy habits and preferences that the garden program promotes will help children carry on a healthy lifestyle into their adulthood.

To learn more about The Learning Patch, go to their Facebook page!

This article illustrates just how versatile school gardens can be and the variety of students that can benefit from this learning approach. It discusses horticultural therapy which basically translates to gardening being of therapeutic value. In the program example of the article, the students fall somewhere along the autistic spectrum. Some of the teachers talk about the garden being the favorite activity among students and how it has helped to teach them responsibility and that hard work will pay off. The students have been reported to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption since the garden began.

The role of Local Farmers

Solis, 2018
Solis, 2018

Maya Dailey has been farming for about 14 years now. While she has family that is in the dairy industry, her upbringing was mostly urban as she grew up in New Jersey, so being a farmer was not something she anticipated. Regardless, she ended up opening Maya's Farm which is a small-scale operation specializing in heirloom, organic produce as well as fresh, free-range eggs and flowers. She sells her products at the farmer's market, to local restaurants, and through a CSA (community-supported agriculture). Her main property is just over two acres and has been managed by herself and mainly two to four other workers. Over the years, Maya has become a prominent voice in the community with connections to organizations like Slow Food Phoenix and the Farm to School Network. Being among the first wave of urban farmers in Phoenix looking to transform the current food system, she has had a special vantage point in seeing the changes in Phoenix's food landscape.

When it comes to farming, it has never been about the economic gain, but instead she uses her position as a farmer in the community to empower and educate. Her day to day tasks reach far beyond that of a typical farmer with phone calls to government officials, cooperative members, and school cafeteria managers. She is, above all, cultivating a connection to the Earth through farming and wishes to extend that to her surrounding community by providing a space for people to come together and learn from each other.

Solis, 2018

Throughout my semester on the farm, there was never two days that were exactly the same. I found that Maya's Farm became a serene refuge for me to let go of the stresses of modern day life and return to the simple aspects of life: dirt, water, air. As I pulled weeds, I could hear a symphony of farm noises from the cackle of the hens to the hum of the tiller. With dirt on my hands and sweat dripping from my brow, I found peace and comfort. That is not to say the work accomplished was not hard, but only that it felt right.

Solis, 2018

Maya has been able to certify her farm as organic which is a time consuming process that comes along with hefty annual fees and inspections. However, she realized that this certification helps her to maintain an edge over the competition at the market as well as when selling to local restaurants. Being a small farmer, any edge in the market is essential to keep the business afloat as small farmers do not receive the subsidies that large scale operations do.

Maya goes well beyond the standards of her organic certification by limiting the amount of inputs she allows on the field. While some pesticides are certified organic, Maya prefers to use natural enhancements like fish emulsion or "worm tea" which are excrements that act as nutrient rich fertilizer. With the organic approach, there is much more labor that is involved in maintaining a healthy harvest. For example, each and every row is weeded by hand and in between the rows a hula-hoe is used. One row can take over an hour to completely weed. That is why Maya always is sure to reinforce the importance of conserving energy on the farm. She once describe it as "dancing with the Earth instead of working against it."

Solis, 2018
Solis, 2018

Building strong relationships within the community is one of Maya's areas of expertise. Her network consists of other farmers, local government officials, educators, restaurant chefs/owners, artists, and cafeteria managers. She has loyal customers that have incorporated Maya's produce into their growing families and some have even become dedicated volunteers. The video above is from an annual farm to table dinner that she puts on at the farm with the help of her vast food network.

Most recently, Maya has become apart of a cooperative of farmers called the Sun Produce Co-op. This group of farmers decided to come together to save themselves. As mentioned before, small-scale farming is often an uphill battle rife with competition. Instead of competing with each other, these farmers set mutual prices and put together a collaborative CSA box with the help of a few school gardens across the valley. Some of this produce even ends up in the Litchfield School District's cafeterias!

Solis, 2018

One of the aspects of farming that Maya is most passionate about is education. A couple of years ago, she attended the Edible Schoolyard workshop in Berkeley, CA and talked about how much of a role that played in changing her perspective. Recently, she has worked to establish a school garden at Garfield Elementary School with the generous funding of the Mollen Foundation. This school's student population come from predominantly low-income, minority families and a majority of the students have faced some kind of trauma in their lives (Byrn, 2017). Therefore, their performance and behavior in school tends to suffer. However, Maya was pleasantly surprised with how easily the students came to enjoy being in the garden and how well behaved they were.

The garden extends to the surrounding community because they realized that much of the local population did not have access to fresh, healthy foods. So, neighborhood residents are always invited to come harvest and attend cooking classes on campus once bi-weekly. This really brings together all of Maya's core values: education, community, and a connection to the natural world.

Solis, 2018

Spending time in a garden truly is a therapeutic experience that restores the soul. At the same time, it empowers these marginalized communities that so often fall into the cycle of poverty and the poor health that comes as a consequence. Teaching these children how to grow their own food brings about independence and confidence. After experiencing their hard work pay off in the garden, they may feel like they can actually make a difference in their communities. Ultimately, it proves to them that food can change the world in which they live in and they play a vital role in the "delicious revolution" that Alice Waters talks about.

Mollen Foundation, 2018

I was able to catch a glimpse into how students react to a garden environment during Garfield Elementary School's 6th grade field trip to Maya's Farm. Over the course of four hours, the students rotated through four different activities on the farm tour: taste the difference between store bought and fresh, organic produce, methods of composting, creating a seed pot with newspaper, and interacting with farm animals. Even though we were battling the heat, the students remained engaged, connected ideas learned in their school garden to the farm, asked questions, and most importantly had fun. It was incredibly gratifying to see the ideology of edible education in action and working!

Solis, 2018

To conclude, our food system is flawed and even a kid could notice. But, that's exactly what we need: kids to notice and to take action. For that to happen, they need the awareness that education brings. Kids are curious by nature and attracted to the natural world, so make the garden their classroom and watch them thrive. The fruits of their labor will be irresistible to taste and all of a sudden they become fans of all their worst enemies: broccoli, green beans, and brussel sprouts. This leaves a lasting impression on their palate and in effect their health. With a healthy future generation, we will begin to taste, touch, and see a delicious revolution take place where communities become empowered through food.


How has fast food affected Italy?
Does a Historically deeply rooted respect toward food make a country more resilient against fast Food?
What does Organic Farming look like and how is it supported?
What kind of food-related programs are offered to students?

Fast food in italy

McDonald's, Roma Termini

In 1985, the first McDonald's was opened in Rome, but the introduction to fast food did not come without resistance. Rory Carroll describes this in her 2000 Guardian article "Protesters try to halt rise of fast-food giant in Italy" (Guardian, 2000). She states that protesters were chanting, "Better a day of tortellini than 100 days of hamburgers" in response to McDonald's plan to open 200 new franchises within the following two years. In Milan, the protesters were seen throwing raw meat at the windows of a McDonald's establishment. Needless to say, the fast food industry's attempts to expand their empire were met with fierce opposition in favor of preserving Italian food traditions.

However, today, there are some shifting market trends that suggest some acceptance of the fast food industry (Euromonitor International, 2018). A majority of grocery stores carry the typical junk foods found in America like chips, candy, and cookies with some coming from international companies like Nestle while others are exclusive to Italy.

In a study completed by The Hbsc-Italia Project in 2010, it was found that "the frequency of overweight and obese children is higher in 11-year-olds (29.3% in males and 19.5% in females), than in 15-year-olds (25.6% in males and 12.3% in females)" (Ministero della Salute, 2014). Unfortunately, this trend is particularly alarming because it indicates that the issue of obesity is rising with the younger generation.

According to my observations, the amount of fast food establishments are significantly less with fewer being further between. Most are located in the larger cities like Rome, Florence, and Milan. Grocery stores generally only have small carts that would be equivalent to a larger version of the baskets used to hand-carry goods in American stores. Therefore, it is not unusual for Italians to make multiple visits to the grocery store each week. In addition, I found that the gas stations provided real food options like sandwiches, pasta, and salad. Clearly, Italy has not entirely forfeited their refined culinary identity and their commitment to providing citizen with fresh, quality ingredients. However, that is not to say that the trends should be ignored and it is clear that the government has not turned a blind eye to the issues at hand.

Response to fast food trends

Italy is known for its strong adherence to the Mediterranean diet which has been boasted about by dietitians for its health benefits. This diet includes frequent consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and good fats like olive oil. In fact, this diet is recommended for those wanting to lose weight or prevent the diet-related diseases associated with obesity (Gunners, 2017). In 2012, the life expectancy for women was 85 years old and men at 80.5 years old which is well above the world average of 63 to 72 years old (World Health Organization, 2014). The average number of adults considered to be obese is 11% which in stark contrast to the average obesity rate in America, 33% (Ministero della Salute, 2014; The State of Obesity, 2018).

Perhaps the historical traditions of an Italian nonna cooking with fresh, wholesome ingredients from scratch have prevailed, or at least struck a healthy balance of fast to real food, for now. Over the past few decades, a two individuals in particular have dedicated a great deal of time to preserving these traditions: Carlo Petrini and Don Pasta.

Carlo Petrini was apart of a group of people that were so outraged by the second proposed McDonald's location that they participated in the 1986 protests and overtime developed the now international group, the Slow Food Movement. The basic premise of this organization is to preserve the integrity of the culture around food, the ingredient, and the farmer's wage with three main principles: good, clean, and fair.

The Italian Insider, 2017

In the Slow Food Manifesto, it is said that, "Good, Clean and Fair quality is a pledge for a better future. Good, Clean and Fair quality is an act of civilization and a tool to improve the food system as it is today. Everyone can contribute to Good, Clean and Fair quality through their choices and individual behavior." The development of Slow Food is essentially a call to action against the current food system with acknowledgement of the power consumers hold.

"Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods. A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building." - Carlo Petrini

In respect to cultural values, the Ark of Taste was created to work toward saving endangered food items that hold traditional significance in order to protect food biodiversity around the world. Petrini believes that there is no value in taste without differences. With the adoption of fast food, people are able to eat the same hamburger in matter what continent they are on. This uniformity, like Alice Waters discussed, degrades our human experience and dulls our senses. It is critical that we uphold traditional foods to maintain cultural identity.

"eating is an agricultural act." - Wendell Berry

Daniele De Michele, otherwise known as Don Pasta, is a chef, economist, DJ, and food advocate. He combines these different aspects with live cooking demonstrations using fresh, local ingredients and traditional methods while simultaneously spinning records as a DJ. He is known for cooking with Italian grandmothers to understand the techniques and ingredients used to make traditional dishes like cannoli and pasta. Like Slow Food, Don Pasta calls for a food revolution that values time-honored methods and recipes.

In addition to individual action, the government has also secured space for good food to thrive by supporting organic farming practices. In the Le Marche region, farmers can be provided with grants to convert an existing farm to organic and to maintain organic status (Urbinati, S & Carbini, D., 2018). With this support, farmers are able to procure the financial means to provide consumers with healthier options for themselves and the land.

Experience with organic growers

"using the techniques of the past to cultivate the future." - Vittorio GIacomini (Biocontadino)
Biocontadino, 2018

Vittorio Giacomini attended an agricultural technical school in the Le Marche regione and soon after rented a plot of land becoming the "Biocontadino." At 26 years old, Vittorio is a young farmer with incredible ambition and perseverance. Like Maya, he does not come from a long line of farmers, but his motivation came from his commitment provide healthy to food to his community. His hard work and dedication is showcased in the quality of his products. With not many more hands than his own, he cultivates a 15,000 meter plot and harvests produce for markets.

Biocontadino, 2018

Much of the daily tasks at the farm were similar to those at Maya's Farm. Our group would spend about six hours once a week on the farm and during this time we weeded rows, trimmed sucker branches off tomato plants, and planted transplants using the tractor. In addition, we would sell Vittorio's produce at a nearby market space on Wednesdays.

The market environment was much different than I anticipated. Instead of being the typical hustle and bustle of a farmer's market, it consistent of a building with three different stalls for farmers to set up in at different times throughout the week. This was an interesting concept because with this method local residents have the ability to purchase farm-fresh produce almost any day of the week.

Biocontadino, 2018

In Italian fashion, the main support system for Vittorio is his family. At the first market, we met his mom, dad, cousin, aunt, uncle, neighbor, and friend all at different intervals. In the same way, it continued each week. His aunt mentioned buying many kilos worth of tomatoes at the end of the season to make an enormous amount of sauce. However, it was not only his family purchasing produce from him, but also committed customers that returned every week.

Martin, 2018

In addition to Biocontadino, our group visited two other organic growers: ColleStefano and Fattoria Le Orgini. ColleStefano is a winery that implements companion planting between the grape vines and wild strawberries to limit the growth of weeds. Fattoria Le Orgini is an agriturismo which is similar to a bed and breakfast except it is always on a farm. At this particular agriturismo, the farmer produced grains and olives. He discussed the importance of using sustainable methods of production like allowing the soil to recover its nutrient content. Moreover, he demonstrated his use of biofuel from the cuttings of olive trees to power the water heater for the guest rooms.

Overall, the interactions with organic growers illustrated the strong commitment of Italians to maintain the production of healthy foods for their community and the environment.

Italy for Children's Health

The drive to maintain a healthy Italy with respect toward tradition can be seen through the government's action on attention to children's health, lunch standards, and food education.

OKkio alla salute is a program that has been implemented by the government which roughly translates to "an eye on health" (Ministero della Salute, 2017). With this program, children's health is being monitored in relation to obesity in order to better assess the current environment and consequently develop curriculum to promote healthier lifestyles. The assessment is made based on the following variables: "anthropometric measures (weight and height), ...eating habits, physical activity, and sedentary behavior" (Ministero della Salute, 2017). OKkio alla salute recognizes the importance of schools in educating and promoting activities, programs, and initiatives to engage students to nutrition and physical activity.

When analyzing the school lunch standards of the US with those of Italy, the differences are undeniable. For one, the Italian document has the information clearly formatted for any literate member of the public to read (Ministero della Salute, 2010). Meanwhile, the American document is more or less a scientific report on economic and nutritional information. In addition, the Italian document does not mention economic calculations and budgets in great detail. Instead, there is a focus on the quality and freshness of the ingredient. There are portions of the standards that discuss the importance of taking time with children to develop preferences for healthy foods as often they may not like it at first taste. Additionally, it is mentioned that seasonal, organic, and local produce are the best options for ingredients.

Ministero della Salute, 2010; Now That's Nifty, 2015

Recently, lunchrooms were given the incentive to use more organic produce with gold and sliver awards. The gold level must use the following percentages of organic produce: "90 percent for fruit, vegetables, legumes, processed products of vegetable origin, bread and bakery products, pasta, rice, flour, cereals and derivatives, extra virgin olive oil; 100 percent for eggs, yogurt and fruit juices and 50 percent for dairy products, meat and fish from aquaculture" (Corriere Quotidiano, 2018). The silver level is for cafeterias that are making an effort towards the gold level, but have not quite achieved the correct percentages of organic produce. Overall, there are already 1,200 cafeterias that are using organic produce today (Corriere Quotidiano, 2018).

Not only are lunchrooms making strides to provide their students with nutritious, organic food that falls within the traditional Italian values, but they are also taking time to educate their students about what they are eating. While it is not called "edible education," it upholds the same premise that connects students to their food, the land, and their culture.

The following video exemplifies what food education looks like in Italy. By watching a only few minutes, it is clear that there is a comprehensive strategy to introduce students to all aspects of agriculture.

In 2006, "the DGR n. 919... was implemented by setting the guidelines for the implementation of this service and the use of the financial resources allocated to it" (Regione Marche, 2018). With this legislation, schools in the Le Marche region were able to use financial resources to provide students with awareness to local agriculture and fishing as well as a general understanding of sustainability.

In 2015, the Sperimentare Salute project was initiated for a similar purpose with more specific implications on a national scale. With this project, 75 classes were created for students to take during primary and secondary school. Some key objectives these classes are to meet are "learn to correlate food choices with lifestyle," "spread knowledge on the origin of food," and "develop awareness on the importance of a varied diet" (Ministero della Salute, 2016).

Italy made strides in many different ways to secure the health of future generations by monitoring their eating habits and health, creating incentives for organic school lunches, and developing food education programs to reconnect children with the origin of their food in addition to their local cultural traditions.


With experience in American and Italian food culture, a stark contrast becomes apparent in the level of respect toward the quality and integrity of ingredients and the nation's willingness to allow a fast food takeover. In Italy, the resistance against the rise of fast food exemplifies the deep cultural roots that motivate individuals like Carlo Petrini, Don Pasta, and Vittorio Giacomini to maintain the quality that comes along with tradition. Additionally, the government has taken national precautions to educate younger generations about food and provide incentive for organic produce to be used in school lunches. In the case of the US, shifts in agricultural techniques and governmental policy invited the processed food companies to flourish. This has resulted in increased rates of obesity, but also a severe disconnect from the farmer, the cook, and in many cases the family and community. However, there is hope in the edible education and farmers like Maya Dailey that work toward reinvigorating the connection to the land and food. It is with this hope that culture can be rediscovered through agriculture.


Aubery, A. (2016). Does Subsidizing Crops We're Told To Eat Less Of Fatten Us Up? NPR: The Salt. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/07/18/486051480/we-subsidize-crops-we-should-eat-less-of-does-this-fatten-us-up

Byrn, N. (2017). Garfield Elementary School launches community garden. Downtown Devil. Retrieved from https://downtowndevil.com/2017/10/19/87674/garfield-elementary-community-garden/

Carroll, R. (2000) Protesters try to halt rise of fast-food giant in Italy. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/oct/17/rorycarroll1

Corriere Quotidiano. (2018). Arriva il marchio di qualità per le mense scolastiche biologiche. Retrieved from https://corrierequotidiano.it/scuola/06-04-2018/arriva-il-marchio-di-qualita-le-mense-scolastiche-biologiche

Euromonitor International. (2018). Fast Food in Italy. Retrieved from http://www.euromonitor.com/fast-food-in-italy/report

Gunners, K. (2017). 5 Studies on The Mediterranean Diet - Does it Really Work? Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet#section2

Haynes-Maslow, L. & O'Hara, J.K. (2015). Lessons from the Lunchroom: Childhood Obesity, School Lunch, and the Way to a Healthier Future. Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved from https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/02/lessons-from-the-lunchroom-report-ucs-2015.pdf

Micheletti, A. & Valenti, L. (2015). Orti Scolastici E Biodiversita’ Agraria. EU-Regione Marche. Retrieved from http://www.assam.marche.it/component/jdownloads/send/44-bandi-e-concorsi/215-bando-orti-scolastici-e-biodiversita-agraria-2014

Ministero della Salute. (2017). OKkio alla salute. Retrieved from http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/temi/p2_6.jsp?lingua=italiano&id=2952&area=stiliVita&menu=sorveglianza

Ministero della Salute. (2016). Educazione alimentare nelle scuole: progetto “Sperimentare Salute.” Retrieved from http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/news/p3_2_1_1_1.jsp?lingua=italiano&menu=notizie&p=dalministero&id=2333

Ministero della Salute. (2014). Mense scolastiche, avviata un'indagine conoscitiva. Retrieved from http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/news/p3_2_1_1_1.jsp?lingua=italiano&menu=notizie&p=dalministero&id=1440

Ministero della Salute. (2014). Obesità. Retrieved from http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/salute/p1_5.jsp?lingua=italiano&id=175&area=Malattie_endocrine_e_metaboliche

Mitchell, N., Catenacci, V., Wyatt, H. R., & Hill, J. O. (2012). Obesity: overview of an epidemic. The Psychiatric clinics of North America. 2011;34(4):717-732. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228640/

The State of Obesity. (2018). Obesity Rates & Trends Overview. Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from https://stateofobesity.org/obesity-rates-trends-overview/

Tempe Elementary School District. (2017). Tempe School Gardening Program Improves Behavior in Students. TESD. Retrieved from http://www.tempeschools.org/Home/Components/News/News/4966/76

Thomas, G. & Chaib, F. (2014). World Health Statistics 2014. World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/15-05-2014-world-health-statistics-2014

Urbinati, S. & Carbini, D. (2018). Agricoltura biologica. Regione Marche. Retrieved from http://www.regione.marche.it/Regione-Utile/Agricoltura-Sviluppo-Rurale-e-Pesca/Agricoltura-biologica

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2012). Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. USDA. 77(17). Retrieved from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-26/pdf/2012-1010.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/table-of-contents/

Valenti, L. (2018). Educazione alimentare. Regione Marche. Retrieved from http://www.regione.marche.it/Regione-Utile/Agricoltura-Sviluppo-Rurale-e-Pesca/Educazione-alimentare

Waters, A. (2013). Alice Waters on fast food culture and slow food values. ScienceAndFood. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHYnPScBwyM

List of Illustrations

Broadmor Elementary. (2018). Menus. Retrieved from http://tempeschools.nutrislice.com/menu/broadmor

Lexicon of Food. (n.d.). Edible Education Infographic. Retrieved from https://www.lexiconoffood.com/thefoodlist/edible-education

Mitchell, N., Catenacci, V., Wyatt, H. R., & Hill, J. O. (2012). Childhood obesity trends. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228640/

Rogers, R. (2012). Food Desert. Retrieved from http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/111382/

Savino, L. (2011). School Food vs Prison Food. Retrieved from http://www.dailyinfographic.com/school-food-vs-prison-food-infographic

Solis, S. (2018). Maya's Farm.

Created By
Dana Martin


Created with images by Eddie Kopp - "Peace Sign" • Lukas Budimaier - "Vegetable Market" • MI PHAM - "Cao Lãnh sandbox" • lukasbieri - "italian cuisine food vegetables" • lukasbieri - "mediterranean cuisine eat food"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.