Farms Finest: Sharing wonderful food lessons again |

Farms Finest: Sharing wonderful food lessons again

Joni Keefe
Special to The Aspen Times

Does anyone remember hearing about those ancient high school classes called home economics, where the girls learned how to bake cakes and work with Simplicity Dress Patterns, and the boys went to shop class to build bookshelves or learn how to tune up a car?

Practical skills were taught in schools that were useful in everyday life. These programs included nutrition along with the handling and preparation of food.

Although the curriculum in these classes would be outdated by today’s standards, the value of the concept remains. If schools offered updated classes on similar subjects such as nutrition or how to prepare food from scratch, our health would be better off and would not have fallen off track.

The American Heart Association states that about 1 in 3 American kids and teens today is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.

The basics of good nutrition are not being taught in school, and inside many busy homes, “cooking” involves freezer food and the microwave. This is especially concerning because at a very early age, a child’s eating patterns are set for a lifetime.

The health of those who are raised on nutritionally hollow food is and has been compromised. Worse, not unlike a drug, junk food creates a craving for more. The hook has been set, reeling in repeating customers, a marketing dream come true for the food giants. (Are there any comparisons to be made here to the tobacco industry?)

The bulk of nutrition “education” is being done by the food industry itself. You can say we have put “the fox in the henhouse.” Implied messages, superhero images and movie-star endorsements are influencing choices. To blindly allow the fast-food giants to educate kids on nutrition is insane.

Fortunately there are emerging programs like Food Day and the Jamie Oliver Foundation. Together they have organized one day a year as a national day to celebrate healthy and affordable food.

This year, Aspen Elementary and Middle schools have joined the cause. With the help of local community support, a new children’s food event has been created. This is all happening here in our local schools on Wednesday.

As usual, a healthy, hot lunch will be available, but the cafeteria also will host a children’s food-tasting event, which is free of charge. Various stations of delicious food will be available from local sponsors such as Avalanche Cheese, Jack Reed’s apple cider, Rock Bottom Ranch, Crystal River Meats, Smoke BBQ Restaurant, Nutrition Cafe and Shamrock Foods, along with numerous volunteers to help make the event memorable for the children.

“I wanted this to be something that every student could be a part of, not just those who buy lunch,” said Tenille Folk, chef at Aspen High School. “I believe all students, teachers, staff and parents should be exposed to and educated in the importance of healthy, affordable and sustainable food, all of which is available in the Aspen Elementary and Middle schools every day.”

The Jamie Oliver website says, “Imagine a world where children were fed tasty and nutritious, real food at school from the age of 4 to 18. A world where every child was educated about how amazing food is, where it comes from, how it affects the body and how it can save their lives.”

For more information, visit http://www.jamie and

Joni Keefe moved to the Roaring Fork Valley after a career in landscape design. She is passionate about local food and agriculture. For more information, her website is, or follow her on Twitter. Connect at