Califonia Bountiful

Teacher Feature

Anne Gaffney

Nutrition specialist
Elk Grove Unified School District, Sacramento County

This interview was originally published on CFAITC's blog, "The Fencepost."

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom? 
I am always looking for nutrition education resources to share with teachers in the Elk Grove Unified School District. Many years ago at a California School Nutrition Association conference, I visited the Agriculture in the Classroom booth and was amazed at all of the resources.

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
While I am not a certificated teacher, I have been a school nutrition educator for almost 21 years. My background is in dietetics and I became a registered dietitian in 1987. My first two jobs as a dietitian involved working with adults who had developed health problems related to diet and lifestyle. By moving to the school environment, my goal is to help children develop healthy eating habits at a young age so they won't develop diseases that could have been prevented with healthy food choices.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
My favorite AITC resource is the Agricultural Fact and Activity Sheets. There is so much information in one convenient location. I have shared these with teachers at nutrition education workshops, used them for activities at health fairs, and gleaned information to supplement our Harvest of the Month produce tasting program.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
Recently, we have been doing farmers market assemblies at elementary schools. At the assemblies, students participate in a short nutrition lesson about the produce that is in season and then they "shop" by selecting one of everything to take home and try with their families. Yesterday, as part of the assembly I asked, "Boys and girls, why do you think we brought all these fresh fruits and vegetables to your school?" One boy quickly raised his hand and said, "Because you care about our health."

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
This school year we have formed a partnership with a local farm. Sixth grade classes are going on a field trip to the farm. For most students, this is their first time on a working farm. While on the farm, students help harvest crops for the local food bank and they are able to bring home some produce to enjoy.

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
Many students of this fast-food generation have lost touch with where food comes from. As they learn about how plants grow, it is easier to understand and have an appreciation for the nutritional value of food. As a dietitian, I believe that all foods can have a place in our diet, but the healthiest diets contain few processed foods. We can't teach healthy eating habits without understanding the importance of natural foods.

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