Lots of food for thought at ag camp

Elizabeth Roche is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator for Cuyahoga County at Ohio State University Extension. This summer she helped lead the Food for Thought Ag Camp in Cleveland, a collaboration between Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H. The camp was held at the Cuyahoga County Extension office on the east side of Cleveland, with field trips to Kinsman Farm and the City Club. 9 children in grades 6-8 attended, along with 3 peer teachers from Youth Advocacy and Leadership Coalition (YALC), a 4H group in Cuyahoga County that focuses on youth leadership and advocacy.

Roche said, “Many children in Cleveland and other urban settings do not know where their food comes from or anything about agriculture’s role in their lives. We wanted to expose kids to the different areas of agriculture and prepare them to be critical thinkers and leaders in the future.”

The camp featured sessions on food production and security, homesteading, technology in agriculture, soil and composting, bug, bees and bats, agricultural advocacy and agricultural careers. One of the lessons was about entomophagy, eating insects. The youth had fun learning about protein sources around the world and the environmental impact of eating bugs. They sampled cricket cookies, chips, and flavored whole crickets. Roche said, “We also snacked on roots, flowers, bulbs, and more as we learned about plant parts and their function.”

Roche said the students loved being out on the urban farm and learning about planting, soil, irrigation, and food systems. At the end of camp, they were able to make the connection between the farm and the food in front of them.

A hunger banquet gave the children an understanding of what global hunger looks like. The students were separated into three groups based on actual percentages of poverty, with different place settings and food to eat according to income level. Half of the kids, placed in the low-income group, sat on the floor and shared a bowl of rice and “dirty” water. The high income group, consisting of only two kids, sat at a table with plates, forks, knives, and had a full meal with chicken and vegetables. The children were shocked to see how many people worldwide are in poverty and can’t afford to eat every day.

Students also learned about food systems and debated the pros and cons of different systems. On the last day of class campers met at the City Club of Cleveland where they had the opportunity to work with executive Chef Adam Crawford. While the youth cooked lunch for their families, family members learned about extension, topics from the week, and future opportunities. Roche said, “This was a very successful collaborative project between ANR and 4-H. We plan to continue to connect with our campers and provide additional education experiences and opportunities to further their knowledge of agriculture.”