Enough to Eat: Students Study History, Food Insecurity and Visit Local Food Bank

We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist, one-third rich and two-thirds hungry. – Jimmy Carter, 39th United States president

In their world history class, Mount Madonna School (MMS) seventh grade students recently learned about medieval Europe and the social structure of feudalism. As part of their studies, teacher Chrislaine Miller had students contrast that historical period, which lacked a framework for making sure poor people were helped, with present-day America’s system of caring for citizens in need.

“While I recognize it was a bit of a stretch, it was also something I really wanted students to think about,” shared Miller. “How are the food insecurity reasons under feudalism the same or different from families today who are subject to food insecurity?”

As they completed their classroom studies of this topic, the seventh and second grade – buddy classes who interact with learning and projects throughout the year – shared a field trip to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County in Watsonville.

“Our two classes had overlapping themes in social studies, and the timing and pieces fit together to make this a good choice for a shared learning experience,” commented teacher Prema Gammons. “The opportunity to tour the food bank and see it in action is right in line with our second grade’s emphasis on giving back to the community.”

At the time students were learning about this topic, America’s federal government was in the midst of its longest-ever partial shutdown. Miller asked students to consider how families might be making ends meet if one of more of the adults in a family worked for a part of the government affected by the shutdown.

“They had to rely on family and friends or on food banks,”  commented several seventh grade students during a discussion with both classes.

“Our country was deep in the partial government shutdown,” explained Miller. “As teachers we were having conversations with our students from a perspective of trying to dispel the stereotype around who needs these services. Hunger isn’t seasonal, and there is a great need that exists throughout the year, right in our own community.”

Earlier in the school year, the second grade led a successful school-wide food drive in support of Second Harvest.

“People need enough to eat all the time,” commented second grader Pierce Culbertson, “not just during the holidays.” As part of their preparation for their food bank visit, the students each brought at least one bag of non-perishable food to donate.

“This was a great chance to continue our involvement and learning by seeing how food donations are processed,” said Gammons. “Their operation is so well-organized. Their storage facility reminded me of a Costco warehouse!”

“It was a really great buddy trip,” Miller said. “Going to the food bank should be something that second and seventh graders do every year. We are fortunate to have Second Harvest in Watsonville, and they process an amazing amount of fresh food due to all the agriculture that happens here. It was kind of amazing, the amount – the thousands of pounds of food being distributed, both to individuals and to other nonprofit organizations like the battered women’s shelter.

“It was very engaging and Second Harvest is run remarkably well” she continued. “Later, as we talked about it with the kids, it was clear that it was a bit overwhelming to consider just how many families in our local community the food bank is helping.”

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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.