The Literature and Cultural Politics of Food, a course taught at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy by English teacher Michael Ferrier, was designed to bring students closer to food and to show how novelists, food critics, historians, and chefs have seized upon some of its variant meanings.
What became of this course was something greater: a group of students who were concerned by the proximity of food deserts – urban areas where fresh, affordable, good quality food is virtually unavailable – and wanted to do something about it.
Throughout the course, students consumed a wide range of materials in different media, performed service work, went on field trips and explored multiple facets of what we eat and its global impacts. Their concern with food deserts inspired them to take a service trip to Sunday Suppers, an organization dedicated to battling food deserts in Philadelphia.
“The idea came to the students very organically,” said Ferrier. “They started to map out how close food deserts are to school and organizations in Philadelphia that are dedicated to combating food insecurity.”
Every week Sunday Suppers families share a healthy dinner around a family table. They learn about fresh and healthy foods, different cooking techniques, simple nutrition facts and the importance of family meals. The organization focuses on better food choices and healthier food preparation. The overall goal of Sunday Suppers is to provide families with the tools to have physically and emotionally healthier lives.
“I like how [Sunday Suppers] not only provides the families a chance to have quality family time but also instructs a class to take their knowledge of nutrition a couple steps further,” said SCH senior Neema Herbert.
While they were there, the students helped in various capacities. Their responsibilities included setting tables, preparing the food, serving the food, organizing storage closets, drying and putting away dishes, and learning hands-on exactly what the organization does. They also got to interact and spend time with the families – an experience that brought a lot of meaning to the students.
“I felt this was meaningful service, not just for myself, but for the families as well because they are given the ability learn how to eat healthier at a lower budget and to spend time together as a family,” said SCH senior Lauren McCormack.
Exposing the students to real-world experiences is part of an everyday practice at SCH. The students are frequently exposed to situations that teach them about issues in the community and how they can go about making a difference.