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Resources and getting started

This page is an ever-evolving work in progress, with links to resources about real food and raising food-literate kids. If you notice a link isn’t working, please leave a comment below.

What you will find on this page:

  • Spoonfed posts to get you started

  • Resources for info on food, food additives, health and behavior

  • Food-literacy resources

  • Real-food snack and treat ideas

  • Non-food ideas for school celebrations and rewards

  • Ideas for healthy school fundraisers

Spoonfed posts to get you started

You are in charge. Never forget that.
Don’t just lament the constant junk assault. Do something about it.

Thoughts on being rude
We can sit around and worry about offending people (and then complain bitterly in private), or we can actually try to change things.

Want kids to eat better? Stop calling them “picky eaters.”
Why labeling kids is bad and patience is good.

Teaching your kids about food will not cause eating disorders
Done right, teaching children about food empowers them. It doesn’t scare them or make them anxious or cause them to binge. It does not cause eating disorders.

Why school and junk food don’t mix. And what educators can do about it.
Five reasons to avoid junk food in the classroom. And five ways educators can help.

I am so over the rainbow (cake)
Why artificial food colors are detrimental to kids’ health and well-being.

National Girl Scout Cookie Day: Money counts
Rethinking the sale of low-quality food and the lessons it teaches our kids.

Orthorexia vs. chocolate milk: Will the real eating disorder please stand up?
Sugar justifications. Big Food shenanigans. And why chocolate milk shouldn’t be sold in schools

Kids and factory farming: Yes, tell them the truth
Being honest with kids about where (most of this country’s) food comes from.

Preachy little foodies (and how not to have one)
The importance of teaching kids to be gracious about different food choices.

Stop reading labels and start reading ingredients
Why we should ignore numbers and nutritionism, and just eat real food.

The ABCs of GMO: Alfalfa, bureaucrats and a conversation with a kid
A primer on genetically modified organisms and why we should avoid them.

Resources for info on food, food additives, health and behavior

Feingold Association of the United States
Extensive resources, including a large database of scientific studies, about how food additives affect behavior, learning and health

Center for Science in the Public Interest
Reports and guides on food additives and food marketing

Sustainable Table
Extensive guides, kits and other resources to educate people about sustainable agriculture, food additives and food-industry shenanigans

The Cornucopia Institute
Research about organic and sustainable agriculture, watchdog reports and industry scorecards

Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity
Extensive research, policy critiques and resources for improving food quality and kids’ relationships with food

Organic Consumers Association Appetite for a Change
Resources to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides, toxins and junk foods

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
Source for the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15,” and tips for choosing produce wisely

Comprehensive nationwide directory of local, organic and sustainable farms, farmers’ markets, producers, stores and restaurants

100 Days of Real Food
Great primers, recipes and inspiration for transitioning to a real-food, whole-foods diet

Food-literacy resources

A middle-school curriculum from the Nourish initiative
Teaching the Food System
A high-school curriculum from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Both of these curricula engage students in discussion (and action) about food and food systems, emphasizing food sustainability and critical analysis. Each is extremely comprehensive, offering detailed lesson plans, teacher guides and supplemental materials. And each can be used in whole or in part, with elements suited to various subjects or general study.

Sustainable Table educational resources
This group (which also produced “The Meatrix” series referenced below) offers a variety of lesson plans and curricula on sustainable agriculture and factory farming.


“The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition”
Michael Pollan

Pollan’s work has been influential in how I’ve come to think about food, shaping my daughter’s experiences as well. (Pollan even got a mention in my first Spoonfed post.) The young readers’ edition breaks his definitive book down to basics, so it’s a great read not only for school-aged kids, but for anyone who wants a primer on the consequences of our food decisions.

“Food Rules”
Michael Pollan

This isn’t aimed at kids, per se, but this condensed version of Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” is a short, clear guide to making wise food choices. Pollan lists 64 “rules” (don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk… sweeten and salt your food yourself… avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce). But there’s nothing absolute or militant here. It’s all about using good sense. And it’s a great primer for introducing kids to these concepts.

“Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food”
Eric Schlosser

This is a young readers’ version of Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal.”

“Birke on the Farm: The Story of a Boy’s Search for Real Food”
Birke Baehr

This picture book follows Birke from curious third-grader to full-blown activist. It’s a story not only about the importance of eating real food, but also about the value of kids speaking out and making a difference. My review is here.

Rosemary Wells

Written as an ode to multiculturalism, this picture book is equally a tale about respecting different food choices. Whether your kid has food allergies or eats ethnic fare or just likes green-and-brown things that her classmates don’t, that’s a good lesson for all.

“That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals”
Ruby Roth

Roth advocates for vegetarianism (and, I think, does so without judgment), but the book’s strength is how it presents factory farming in an age-appropriate way. Even omnivorous kids get a takeaway.

“Hungry Planet: What the World Eats”
Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio

This gorgeous, eye-opening book chronicles, in vivid photographs, a week’s worth of groceries for 30 families in 24 countries.


“What’s on Your Plate?”
Created by two 11-year-olds, the film and companion workbook explore the food system and ask kids to “talk about what they eat, where it comes from and why that matters.”

“Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating”
An upbeat documentary about people all over the country working to grow and produce food in ways that are good for our bodies and the planet. There’s also a companion K-12 study guide.

 “Food Inc.”
This ground-breaking film (which I reviewed here) generally is recommended for teens and older. A great companion to the Michael Pollan books above. There’s also a companion high-school discussion guide from the Center for Ecoliteracy. For help deciding whether to show it to younger kids, check out these kid-centric reviews from Common Sense Media and Parent Previews.

“Super Size Me”
Morgan Spurlock’s stomach-churning documentary about eating McDonald’s food for a month straight. A good companion to the Eric Schlosser books above. Also generally recommended for teens and older. Check out the reviews on Common Sense Media.

“The Meatrix” series
These cartoon videos borrow from “The Matrix” to take on factory-farmed meat, eggs and dairy, and the fast-food industry.  The site also includes presentation kits, handouts and other resources for learning more.

“What’s wrong with our food system”
In 2010, then 11-year-old Birke Baehr (whose book, “Birke on the Farm,” is mentioned above) generated epic buzz with this 5-minute TEDx talk, in which he dissects everything that’s wrong with our food system.

“Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory: A children’s story about processed food”
Created by The Lunch Tray blogger Bettina Elias Siegel, this 12-minute video storybook is cute and fun, but it also has a serious message about processed food and marketing to children.

Real-food snack and treat ideas

I’m posting these with a gigantic caveat: I don’t agree with all the suggestions. In particular, I think fat — including saturated fat — is vital, especially for growing children, so I’d ignore the modifier “low-fat.” And, holy cow, do NOT follow CSPI’s advice to use Cool Whip! But most of these ideas avoid the big culprits: artificial colors and flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, chemical preservatives and added sugar. So there’s a lot to work with here.

A note about schools that allow only store-bought (vs. homemade) snacks and treats: Some of these lists do include pre-packaged items. Also keep in mind that many bakeries will make mini cupcakes and hand-frost on request, which reduces both the serving size and the pile of frosting. You also can ask for bakery items to be made without artificial colors. I’d prefer we just skip birthday treats altogether (and some day I’ll blog my thoughts on store-bought-only policies). But, in the meantime, know you at least have options.

Also see this Spoonfed handout: Why school and junk food don’t mix. And what educators can do about it.

Healthy School Snack List
source: health coach Adrienne Markus

Better School Food Healthy Snack List
source: Better School Food

Snack Ideas
source: NourishMD

85 Snack Ideas for Kids (and Adults!)
source: 100 Days of Real Food

An Elementary School Snack List — Nut-Free
source: 100 Days of Real Food

Prepackaged Snacks for School
source: 100 Days of Real Food

The Busy Family’s Guide to Healthy School Snacks
source: Parents Educators & Advocates Connection for Healthy School Food (PEACHSF)

Healthy School Snacks
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Healthy Kids’ Snacks
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Soccer Snacktivism Handbook
source: Real Mom Nutrition

Healthy Celebrations
source: Connecticut State Department of Education

Healthy School Celebrations
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Parties Can Be Fun and Healthy!
source: NourishMD

Healthy School Parties: 18 Fun Cupcake Alternatives
source: School Bites

Non-food ideas for school celebrations and rewards

Also see this Spoonfed handout: Why school and junk food don’t mix. And what educators can do about it.

Healthy School Celebrations
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

40+ Classroom Ideas for Allergy-Friendly Celebrations!
source: Peanut Free Zone

Non-Food Ideas for Birthday Celebrations at School and Non-Food Rewards
source: Ohio Action for Healthy Kids

Constructive Classroom Rewards: Promoting Good Habits While Protecting Children’s Health
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Student Rewards… That Aren’t Junk Food!
source: 100 Days of Real Food

Ideas for healthy school fundraisers

Also see this Spoonfed handout: Why school and junk food don’t mix. And what educators can do about it.

Healthy Fundraising
source: Alliance for a Healthier Generation

How to Fund Raise for Your School Without Selling Food
source: Parents Educators & Advocates Connection for Healthy School Food (PEACHSF)

Sweet Deals: School Fundraising Can Be Healthy and Profitable
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Healthy Fundraisers Fact Sheet
source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)


Equal Exchange fair-trade foods and gifts

Today I Ate a Rainbow


Laptop Lunches

Green Bottle

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