How We Support Student Advocacy
Through the Pilot Light Institute for Food Education, teachers are being equipped with tools, knowledge and skills to create curriculum that culminates in a student-initiated food advocacy project centered around the cafeteria or community. Pilot Light is supporting teachers by giving them resources highlighting important food policy issues that we prioritize. These resources include newspaper articles, media and books, and not only educate our teachers, but provide them with classroom materials that they can use to help their students formulate a concrete foundation for their culminating food advocacy project. The ultimate goal for Pilot Light’s Institute is to support teachers in guiding their students to be advocates for a better food environment, starting in the classroom.
Pilot Light supports its students in harnessing their knowledge of food to create grassroots change within their school and communities. So far, they have written letters to their elected leaders demanding healthy and affordable food for the communities, and they have learned about how school lunch programs around the world compare to our own in the United States, ultimately designing healthier experiences and proposing changes to their school principals. This year’s advocacy projects are in the making, but will require students to research a topic of their choice founded in the food policy goals. The advocacy project will take different forms for different students, but will require them to understand important concepts related to how they perceive food policy in their own schools and communities. Through this project, students will develop their abilities in research, critical thinking, writing, food literacy, and problem solving.
Previous Advocacy Projects
Fourth graders from Englewood participated our social studies unit, “Healthy Food for All!”, where they learned about the relationship between food and the civil rights movement. We delivered a series of lessons delivered over a two month period. In one particular activity, the students mapped out access to grocery stores, convenience stores, community gardens, and restaurants in their Englewood neighborhood. They discovered that Englewood is a “food desert”, which means that its residents have limited access to healthy and affordable food.
The students chose to do a final project where they wrote formal letters to leaders in the food movement, such as Sam Kass and Michelle Obama. The students applied the persuasive writing skills they learned in English to advocate for better food access within their own community.
Over the coming weeks, we will release the letters and videos of the students reading them. The students poured hours of time into this project, wrote draft after draft, and took turns on the classroom computers typing them up. Then each student read his/her letter aloud, in front of a camera and the rest of the class. This was a big step and it took a lot of confidence.
Ms. Ige, their wonderful teacher, displayed the letters in the school hallways. She also encouraged us at Pilot Light to get the word out about the project, so that we can reach a broader audience with the students’ message. You can see how thoughtful the students were about the barriers to food access in their community. They reveal nuances from a child’s perspective that will open your eyes. These fourth graders are changemakers and their words will make a difference.