Slow Food taste education project will develop in five more schools in Belarus and Crimea, Ukraine.

During the last week of April, Kristin Kiesel, a Postdoctoral Research Scholar from the University of California-Berkeley and Slow Food representatives visited Berioza Secondary School. Starting in the fall of 2008 kids ranging from 9 to 15 years have been involved in a project that aims at improving daily food choices through sensory education.

The students are studying the origin of foods through exploring local and natural methods of production, their organoleptic profiles, quality characteristics and additionally social and economic consequences of their food choices.

From January until May, 120 children attended a 20 lesson program provided by the local Berioza Convivium. The program began with sensory exercises on smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight and then introduced the students to local producers and offered culinary classes. To supplement the in-class lessons, students filled out questionnaires and kept daily food diaries, recording what they ate at school every day.

Tatiana, one of the three teachers implementing the curriculum, said of a 9th grade student: “In her daily food diary, Anya wrote down only chewing gum and candy as her food choice for lunch. She was convinced that because she puts chewing gum into her mouth, it counts as a food. I guess that has changed though, as she started to order hot lunches at the school cafeteria a couple of days ago”.

Svetlana, one of the students parents, said about her 6th grade son: “Anton used to buy potato chips secretly, and there was nothing I could to do to stop him. I would often find chips crumbs in his pockets. After the third lesson of the project he told me he understood that he shouldn’t eat so many potato chips any more. The day after he proposed to prepare home made sausage, something they learned about in class. This is the most important achievement for me as a parent during the last years”.

The collaboration with Sofia Berto Villas-Boas, Michael Anderson, and Kristin Kiesel at the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics was established in order to support these quotes (see above) with quantitative results derived in an applied field study: “Nutritional Education and Food Consumption: Evidence from a Field Experiment”. This research is supported by the UC Berkeley Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program.

As a result of the visit, four other Belarusian schools initially contacted to serve as a control group for the research design will also adopt the curriculum starting in September 2009. Slow Food in the Ukraine is also planning to start a pilot in Crimea that will serve as an exportable model for Ukrainian schools in general.

Lilia Smelkova
[email protected]

Kristin Kiesel
[email protected]

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