Food Education for Change

High school students are on the cusp of independence. As these students start to vote, shop and cook for themselves, and think about future career choices, they have the power to impact the world and our food system. The Stone Barns high school education program is working to equip them with tools and information that may lead us to brighter food future.

The curriculum is designed to inspire high school students to become food citizens—individuals who understand that their food choices have meaningful impact on personal, environmental and community health. We want to empower them to advocate for change.

This innovative program is unique in that it goes beyond cooking and nutrition. It uses food as a portal through which we explore critical issues in science, ecology, health, culture and justice. Classes delve into the history and science of food, the principles of resilient agriculture, diverse food cultures, preparing fresh, farm-driven meals, and the politics and economics of food. 

In the classroom, students engage in discussion-based lessons. During “Food Lab” sessions—which might take place in the school cafeteria, a kitchen or a science lab—participants learn about the production and preparation of healthy, seasonal food through hands-on cooking and online video chats with farmers and chefs. During farm field trips, groups get their hands dirty planting, harvesting, helping with animal care and composting.

Since early 2015, Stone Barns Center has offered this course to students at five public and charter high schools in New York City. The vast majority of participating students come from economically disadvantaged communities, with 72% qualifying for free or reduced-price school lunch. Thanks to generous donors and supporters, Stone Barns will double New York City school partnerships in the 2016-2017 school year to reach hundreds more students, and plans are underway for a national program launch the following year. We are currently working with DELORDINAIRE design studio on the protype for a mobile teaching unit outfitted to serve the program's needs.

Students, teachers and parents report that the course is transformational, helping students connect ingredients to ideas and empowering them with the skills they need to prepare fresh, healthy food. “Taking this course I can definitely say is the best academic decision I’ve made during high school,” one student says. “No class has intrigued me as much with its readings nor offered such great hands-on experience, nor had such a large impact on my life.”