J500 Media and the Environment

Fighting Fast Food with Cute Cows by brennad87

“We are going to talk about cows today!” I said cheerily to the bunch of bright faces assembled. 

It was a Sunday morning and I was with the group of children I have babysat for two years.  Fresh from watching a You Tube video of Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, I was keenly aware that the kids around me were right in the middle of their most formative years. Fast food knows this too. With the pull of good taste and good advertising, children get hooked into bad eating habits young.

Eating habits start young. Sadly, those habits usually stick.

Eating habits start young. Sadly, those habits usually stick.

In an interview with CBS, Schlosser explains, “It started innocently enough, giving a toy with the meal, playgrounds, there are good things about it. But these are very, very crucial years. If you look at the ingredients of the fast food meals that are being heavily marketed to children, they’re extremely high in fat, and high in sugar, and high in salt.”

So this morning, I decided, I would do some counter-advertising. We were going to learn about sustainable agriculture.

The kids began by envisioning that they owned cow farms (“Mine is named Blackberry farm,” said Bella).   I then explained to them the consolidation of buyers for milk and why that was hard for small farms (“Why would a group selling milk to Dillons want to buy from a place with lots of cows?” “It’s easier for them,” said Li, who I was quickly realizing was the cold hearted capitalist amongst us.)

“So, if you buy more cows,” I continued, “how can you afford that?”

Less trips to the vet, cheaper food… they understood.

“And what if you want to stay small? So you can afford the good stuff for your cows?”

“The buyers won’t buy from you,” said Li, “They can’t make money.”

“So how can you survive?”

Shatto Milk Company welcomes young visitors to their farm. Lessons like that stick too!

Shatto Milk Company welcomes young visitors to their farm. Lessons like that stick too!

With remarkable ease, the imaginative kids solved the problem just like the ace advertisers hired by Shatto Milk Company, a local sustainable and successful farm. Bella produced a drawing of a funky looking bottle to sell the milk in (Something Shatto already does). Li admitted she would rather buy from people (and cows!) she knew (Shatto makes a point to involve themselves in the community). They brainstormed different kinds of milk—“Coconut!” and “Mint!” (Shatto is famous for Root Beer Milk.)

At the end of the lesson, I told them about Shatto farms and the kids were entranced that the whimsical farm existed. They left after an hour, still chatting about Farmer Shatto’s horn that moos instead of honks, and as I called “Tell your parents about the stuff you learned,” I hoped I had made a difference.

— Brenna Daldorph


— photos at http://www.fox4kc.com/media/photo/2008-12/ShattoMilk082.jpg, http://vivirlatino.com/i/2008/07/mcdonalds-kid.jpg



5 Comments so far
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If only this type of lesson was incorporated in public schools! Children are so intuitive and wiser than we give them credit for. I don’t know if you are going on to grad school but I this (creating lesson plans on sustainability for kids) could turn into an amazing masters project. You should keep it in mind.

Comment by mackenzies09

The relationship I have with these kids is pretty great– I am able to fish around all week for something I think is important and worthy and teach them about it come Sunday. We have had fabulous conversations on homelessness, on politics, on mosaics, on poverty and on ancient fables. Each time I learn something, too. Teaching is a fantastic process. Teaching kids involves learning to simplify issues to their very core and present them in an engaging manner. It is a weekly challenge to combine learning and fun and it usually goes pretty well!

My aunt teaches at a Quaker School in England. Not only is it a gentle and caring place, it is also a wonderful learning environment. The kids do learn about issues like sustainability and poverty along with their normal courses. It is a school with a lot of international students and a school that accepts kids who have been expelled from other schools. It is a true example of what education should be!

Comment by brennad87

I’m sure you did make a difference because they both look up to you. Is there anything that adults can take from this lesson when talking to friends or the general public about the environment (or even just about milk)?

Comment by Lauren Keith

This is exactly what I’m talking about. While learning about all the problems with agriculture can be discouraging, it is those small steps we make, to teach and inspire one another that lead to big change.

Now I wish I was 6 again and could go to your Sunday babysitting group. I’d love to talk to you more about you teaching this kids. I have an interest in environmental education. Keep up the good work!

Comment by janiec52

Lauren, there is so much adults can learn from the kids themselves and from teaching them. And from knowing them– they can realize their ultimate responsibility to these little individuals we are giving the world to.

Comment by brennad87

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