Two pictures of fifth grader Ben Rivers; on the left is a posed picture in front of a painting, and on the right is a still from video footage of Ben’s speech.
Katahdin student Ben Rivers says, “When students enjoy what they are learning, they will remember it longer and be able to use that knowledge later.”

Food education can shape kids’ relationships with food for a lifetime. Who better to explain that impact than kids themselves? 

In Maine’s Katahdin Region, elementary school students learn about nutrition, cooking, and gardening through a program called All About Food. Earlier this year, the school board invited a few students to a board meeting to share their thoughts on All About Food.

One of those students is fifth grader Ben Rivers, who took the opportunity to present a written speech to the school board about his All About Food experience. We asked Ben what inspired him to speak in front of the board. He shared: 

“I guess I just wanted to help keep the program going to ensure that other kids had the opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from and how to prepare it to stay healthy. I think that the school committee had to hear my thoughts, from a student’s perspective, about the value of what we had learned so that they know that kids not only enjoy what is being taught but also that it is important to us.

“When students enjoy what they are learning they will remember it longer, and be able to use that knowledge later.”

For the Rivers family, food education is a family activity, too. Ben’s parents, Neil and Danielle, told FoodCorps they’ve enjoyed the conversations that stem from Ben’s lessons at school. 

“Our discussions quite often lead to additional activities for our entire family in order to satisfy Ben’s desire to show us what he has learned, or to satiate his curiosities about the subject matter and to expand his understanding as it applies to other aspects of our lives,” they said.

Watch Ben’s speech or read the text below.

Good afternoon, 

My name is Benjamin Rivers and I am a fifth grade student here at Katahdin Elementary School. I would like, with your consent, to take just a few moments to explain why I believe it is important to have an All About Food Program. In the program we learn about gardening, cooking and nutrition. 

The first element is gardening.

In a rural community like ours, agriculture is very important both as part of our history and our economy. Learning about gardening and growing our own food could one day lead to getting a job in the agricultural industry. My parents and I talk about this. 

Learning about how to garden and grow your own food taught me that I can save money and help feed my family. It taught me how to focus, follow instructions, observe for change, discuss issues, and make decisions.

Learning how to garden is fun for me and is a good family activity. I like to tell my parents about the things I learned about gardening and hear what they think. Fresh ingredients are the best, so we look for things farmers in the area have or that we can grow. We can help plants grow better by using compost, fertilizer, or even greenhouses.  

The second element is cooking. Learning how to cook what you grow is super important. Poorly cooked food can taste bad, lead to waste, or even be less healthy; overcooked food loses nutrition. 

Learning how to cook things properly could lead to future employment in the food service or tourism industry which are both important parts of the economy here in northern Maine. Cooks work at home, in schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, lodges, and sporting camps all over Aroostook County. 

Learning how to cook provides a way to connect with others socially in a hands-on way that is fun for individuals, the community, and your family. It is creative and essential. Like a bean hole supper. 

The third and final element is nutrition. I have learned that nutrition is what helps to keep us healthy. Nutrition comes from a balanced diet and good foods. Long-lasting health problems later in life starting at around age 30 are sometimes caused by poor nutrition as children. Understanding nutrition may help us solve or avoid health problems in the future. 

It is statistically proven that you will live longer and lead more productive lives physically, mentally, and financially by having more energy, more focus, and greater discipline which are caused by eating well balanced meals and getting proper nutrition. 

In conclusion, All About Food starts a lot of conversations at home from lessons learned at school or questions I think about. One of the things I like best about it is that the lessons are interactive, hands-on, and fun which helps me understand. I appreciate everything our teacher does for us and the knowledge shared. 

Thank you for listening to my comments and for your time. Do you have any questions for me? 

Thank you again and have a wonderful evening.