Sustainable Eating on a Budget

  • Make your own. When you buy processed foods, you are paying for packaging, pesticides, and transportation. By replacing store-bought items with homemade counterparts, you can save huge amounts of money and enjoy the privilege of knowing exactly what went into your food. The average cost of whole wheat bread in the U.S. is $2. But you could make your own loaf of whole wheat bread for only $1.  You can find a recipe below for no-knead whole wheat bread and pizza crust.
  • Eat with the seasons. Raspberries from Ecuador will be more expensive in January than they will be in July when they are in season nearby. Buying food that is in season means saving money and being in tune with the environment of your hometown.
  • Grow your own. Growing your own herbs and vegetables is a delicious and rewarding way to save money on grocery items. A pack of herbs from a grocery store can cost anywhere from $3 to $6 and you are likely only using it for a meal or two.
  • Eat locally. The closer the food you eat was grown to you, the fewer people there were involved in getting it to you. By cutting out the middleman, you only pay exactly what your food is worth.
  • Buy in bulk. For nuts, rice, grains, and flours, you can purchase in the bulk section of your grocery store and save money on packaging.



Why Should We….

… Eat Together as a Family?Enjoying dinner with family is the best part!

  • Improved academics: sitting down and eating meals with family members was the strongest predictor of academic achievement in high school seniors [1] – even more than whether they lived with one or both parents.
  • Regardless of gender, family structure, or socioeconomic level, teenagers who eat dinner with their families at least 5 times per week are less likely to be involved with drugs later in life.
  • Improved minds: dinner table conversations teach children more vocabulary than simply reading to them.
  • Sitting down together for a meal nurtures family relationships and provides a time in the day to stop and focus on each other. The family table is also a natural space to foster good listening skills that serve kids well beyond childhood.
  • Parents can be role models of healthy eating for their kids, and family meals promote a sense of belonging.

… Cook with our Children?IMG_1930

  • Kids are more likely to try new healthy foods that they’ve never tried before if they’ve had a hand in preparing them.
  • Helping cook a meal gives kids sense of purpose in their home space, making them less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as teenagers.
  • Cooking together encourages children to take ownership over their eating, providing them with that wonderful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with preparing their own meal.
  • Cooking together means spending quality time together doing something productive, and teaching kids a skill that will serve them throughout their lives.

 … Eat Local?

  • _MG_0922Because it’s nearly impossible to identify all the pesticides used to grow a banana from the tropics, and to know the route it took to get to your supermarket.
  • The closer your food is grown to you, the less transportation and gasoline it took to get there, and the better for the earth it is.
  • Because, even if it’s not organic, the apple from a grower in a nearby state is likely less aggressively applied with chemicals. It is safer and cleaner, and its path from farm to table is easier to trace.
  • Supporting local growers’ and purveyors’ products means your money stays close to home, helping to build the local economy in your hometown instead supporting a big corporation in another city, state, or country.

_MG_0889… Eat Seasonally?

  • Because eating food that is in season is beneficial to your pocketbook as well. The cost of food transportation and storage for foods that are not in season make them more expensive than a fruit or vegetable that is seasonal and grown in your area.
  • Because it tastes so much better! Local food is generally food that is in season. Have you ever tasted a bright red local strawberry in June alongside a big, white, strawberry from a supermarket? You’ll be able to taste the difference.


… Eat Whole Grains?

  • Whole grains have 50% more B vitamins, 90% more vitamin E, and a whole lot more fiber than their refined counterparts. [2] Basically, with whole grains, you’re getting better nutrition for the same cost: more bang for your buck.
  • What are they? Whole grains are the unrefined, entire seed of a plant. The seed is made of three parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. A whole grain contains all three, while a refined grain is stripped of the bran and the germ.
  • Swapping whole wheat breads and cereals for their white counterparts is an easy way to decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Some easy-to-find whole grains include: oats, brown rice, barley, faro, quinoa, whole-wheat flour, and wild rice.




Our guest blogger, Katarina Rodriguez is a Spoons Across America Programs Associate from CUNY Service Corps 2014-2015. Her post is a response to the Time Magazine article, ‘Coming to Our Senses on Education and Nutrition’, written by Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, published on November 12th, 2014.

At Spoons Across America, we believe the best approach to nutrition education is to encourage children to lift up their spoons and excite all their senses as they taste new and interesting healthy foods. In New York City, the “concrete jungle” is not the easiest place for children to truly understand how their foods travel from the farm to the plate, but at Spoons Across America, we are passionate about persuading children to care about these untold food stories. Our children learn through both experience and observation as we ask them to describe the appearance, texture, scent, and taste of all kinds of food- like in our  Taste a Taste program where children can snack on a mouthwatering Honeycrisp apple. Our children become independent and inquisitive taste explorers- but when the recipe we hand out at the end of every lesson is accompanied by a high-pitched squeal– we know that sometimes we inspire mini chefs as well.

aglitweekSpoons Across America provides programs where children actively engage all their senses by tasting and learning about new, healthy foods. In her article, Coming to Our Senses on Education and Nutrition, Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, a physician graduate of John Hopkins School of Medicine, advocates for more taste and smell stimulation in classroom instruction. She explains that “taste and smell… guide our behavior and level of motivation.” She explains, how “the gaming and cosmetic industries use food fragrances to incentivize behavior and purchases.” People build associations with certain foods and activities, which can encourage unhealthy habits. For instance, football fans associate watching the Superbowl with pizza and spicy buffalo wings and pizzerias offer deals on their food to intice people to continue this behavior.

Dr. Kohlstadt recognizes that the types of food children are exposed to and their experiences with it can lead to both positive and negative lifelong behaviors. At Spoons Across America, our Take a Taste with Spoons program for 3rd graders is one of our many programs that combines taste and smell stimulation with our classroom lessons to encourage children to be healthy eaters.

Spoons Across America wants to improve children’s relationship with food and at the same time, introduce them to the world of culinary arts and the long-term benefits of healthy eating. Most children can recognize and name the variety of an apple, but rarely do we hear children think critically for a unique description of an apple. In Take a Taste, students identify the elements of taste (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter) and we urge them to use this vocabulary and descriptive language to explain their reactions to the food they eat. In a recent lesson this October, as an instructor cut a juicy Pink Lady apple before the lesson began, a 3rd-grade student impatiently told us, “Can I eat that apple already? I’m drooling here.”

salad daysWe want our students to drool and yearn for healthy food, we prompt them with questions to enhance their vocabulary and build associations with complex tastes and the world around us; Does it taste like an explosion of sweetness? Does it taste like Fall? Is it crunchy like the leaves falling off the trees? Instead of children eating without really enjoying and thinking about the kinds of food they put in their mouths, we want children to stop and realize their food is just as connected to the world as they are and every bite from a nutritious meal will lead them to a healthier, happier, and beautiful life.

In addition to Take A Taste with Spoons, Spoons Across America’s programs include The Dinner Party Project®, Agriculture Literacy Week, and Spoons Food Miles Relay. In all of our programs, we challenge children to experience unfamiliar, healthy foods, to think critically about the story behind their food, and to be health conscious about the food choices they make.

_Y0K0826Spoons Across America hopes that the meal preparation that children learn from our lessons will give them enough confidence to initiate and continue cooking at home with their families. In a study performed by Researchers at Teachers College at Columbia children involved in meal preparation and found that they were more likely to eat their school lunches and ask for seconds than children who did not participate in cooking workshops . Children who prepare their own meals actually want to eat what they cook, because they feel a sense of pride and confidence. Spoons Across America understands that as educators it is our duty to encourage children to embrace their curiosity when it comes to food. The influence we have now on children can have a lasting impact on them as adults and ultimately the health of the community.

[1] Parker-Pope, Tara. “6 Food Mistakes Parents make.” New York Times, Sep 15, 2008, Late Edition (East Coast).