Washington, DC, is the locus for national food policy, but few outside the city know that it has also become a hub for food education. Through programs like the Farm to School Network (run by local organization DC Greens), the Washington Youth Garden, Brainfood, and so many others, youth gain skills in gardening, cooking, and forming healthy habits inside and outside the classroom.
On the Foggy Bottom campus of The George Washington University, teachers, administrators, and community advocates are attempting to take education to the next level by incorporating food and nutrition examples into the traditional curriculum of selected subjects taught at the School Without Walls (SWW), a public magnet high school located on the University’s campus.
GWU student Jesse Shaeffer from Food Justice Alliance showing students how to compost material.
The idea for the Integrated Food Project (IFP) originated with celebrated chef Jose Andres in 2011, who believed that using food-related examples in the curriculum would spark student interest in food issues and encourage them to think more carefully about their dietary choices. With the support of Diane Robinson Knapp, a nutritionist and the chair of GW’s Urban Food Task Force and Richard Trogisch, principal of SWW, teachers volunteered to adopt the pilot curriculum in their classrooms.
Education and nutrition experts from GW as well as Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup helped the Integrated Food Project expand from six classes in 2011 to fifteen in 2012. As of June 2013, the project will have reached 425 students through courses in U.S. History, French, World History, Health, Biology, Physics, and Humanities.
The leaders of the IFP hope the program will help students engage more fully in their classes and gain a greater understanding of food and nutrition to improve their health and quality of life and in turn share their knowledge with their families.
(from left to right): Diane Robinson Knapp, Chairwoman, Urban Food Task Force; Laura O'Neill, Integrated Food Project Liaison, Former School Without Walls Teacher; Ann McCarthy, Brand + Media Director, ThinkFoodGroup
Diane Robinson Knapp received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human nutrition and education from Cornell University. She worked for 25 years as a Registered Dietician in clinical dietetics and food services at several hospitals in New York and California, including Children’s Hospital, Oakland, where she served as director of clinical nutrition.