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Exploring Healthy and Sustainable Eating Habits in São Paulo

By Carol Miranda, Community Engagement Manager at Avenues São Paulo

Looking through their classroom window, first grade students at Avenues São Paulo recently had the opportunity to observe a pair of monkeys skillfully scaling trees  in search of food. With rapt attention, the students closely followed the monkeys' every move, earnestly attempting to decipher their dietary preferences. 

The following day, a group of first graders embarked on a thoughtful endeavor. They set aside portions of their snacks near the window, intended as a treat for the monkeys. This seemingly small act ignited a spirited discussion. While some students believed that offering a piece of bread or cake would make for an appealing monkey snack, others expressed concerns, contending that such food might not be suitable. "These choices aren't nutritious!" argued one student.

The teachers keenly tuned into the dialogue, fostering an environment of active listening and engagement. Taking cues from their students' curiosity and interests, they led the class in an exploration of the concepts of health and sustainability in relation to food. The students learned about different types of food and their contributions to human health. Taking an interdisciplinary and experiential approach, the teachers took the students’ learning beyond the classroom by arranging a visit to a local NGO, Cidades Sem Fome.

At Cidades Sem Fome, it was as though the students had stepped into a living classroom. They spent a day immersed in the hands-on process of planting and cultivating crops. With their hands in the soil and their minds open to discovery, the students witnessed firsthand the intricacies of food production and gained an appreciation for the effort and dedication required to bring nourishment from seed to table. This visit was a transformative encounter that bridged the gap between theoretical learning and real-world application.

In conversations with the organization’s staff, the students gleaned insights into the challenges and triumphs of urban farming. First graders were acting locally and thinking globally. They discussed the benefits of locally sourced produce and pondered the role of urban gardens in enhancing food security and promoting community resilience.

This rich interaction not only deepened their comprehension of sustainable food systems but also kindled a sense of empowerment, as they recognized their capacity to contribute meaningfully to a more sustainable future.At the end of their visit, students went to the local market to buy vegetables. Their interest in buying vegetables they had never tried before and their desire to avoid waste by buying less  was notable. Upon returning home, parents were amazed at the enthusiasm of their young children for cooking something new as well as trying vegetables that were not part of their diet before.

At school, the students found themselves not only armed with a deeper understanding of healthy and sustainable eating habits but also emboldened by a sense of purpose. They channeled their newfound knowledge and enthusiasm into cooking healthy spinach pasta for lunch and served it to the school community as a way to inspire their peers to think about their food choices.