Story by Maddy Baroli
Imagine a local carrot. It has more flavor than anything you’ll find on a supermarket shelf. It has a crunch factor that rivals Doritos. It’s as fresh as Prince and you can buy it at a reasonable price. So why do its industrially farmed counterparts tend to sell better? Of the many answers to this question, one is as clear as the liquid crystals in your television screen: marketing and advertising. Large food corporations have ample resources devoted to reaching a broad customer base with compelling ads and flashy packaging.
Local FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall recently explored this topic in a lesson at Boyne Falls Public School. FoodCorps is a national nonprofit dedicated to connecting students with healthy foods through direct service in public classrooms. Service members provide hands-on lessons related to various aspects of our food system. Lindsay led high school photography students through a lesson with this central question: How is food marketed and what implications does this have on the products we buy and where they come from?
First, students learned some basic food photography skills. Then they set out to photograph a local product, interview the farmer or chef, and create a single photo, collage or advertising pitch to market the product in a compelling way. Some visited farmers’ markets, others visited farms, and a few interviewed the chefs in their school cafeteria.
The pictures and stories that came back were beautiful, and students contributed what they had learned from their interviews to a fruitful discussion about the differences between local and industrially sourced foods. In addition to marketing, students considered variables such as travel distances, energy use, prices, employment, and nutritional value, among others.
This lesson is so powerful because it not only requires kids to engage directly with their local food system, but helps them understand and challenge the dominant narrative of food advertising present in commercial media. A big thanks to FoodCorps and Lindsay for all the good work they do bringing these concepts to the classroom!