Use it Up, Wear it Out, Eat it All

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From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Lark P. Palma PhD, Head of School

Over the sink in our South Carolina home hung a small green sign that embodied one of my mother’s strongest beliefs: “Use it up, wear it out, eat it all!”
 
We had fresh free-range eggs and chickens, an old-fashioned ice box on the back porch filled with local fruits and vegetables, bushels of blue crab claws, flounder, and bass that we gathered ourselves or that were given to my physician father as payment for medical services. For some people these gifts were the only way they had to pay the doctor, so we happily accepted the fishermen’s and farmers’ bounty.
 
My childhood shaped my attitudes about food. It should be enjoyed with lots of people. It should take some time to prepare. It should be as delicious as possible and be provided from the closest sources that the season provides. Because of my early exposure to good food, my life habits were set.
 
In this issue you will read many examples of curricular depth in interdisciplinary and experiential studies of food and nutrition, from social science, to health and PE, to science, math, the humanities, and languages. Our students study food as culture in modern languages, and read Jared Diamond’s Collapse in 9th grade history. As the students get older their learning circle expands to particular communities in this state (Oregon is one of the hungriest states in the country), other states with similar statistics, and countries all over the world for whom food insecurity is a chronic problem. The effects of famine, soil erosion, deforestation, and political control of food to subdue or exterminate groups of people create debilitating diseases and high childhood mortality. We acknowledge that if we teach our students to understand their relationship with food, they will be better be able to study and understand the conditions of people in communities not like ours.
 
Our students come to recognize these disparities, and with compassion and resolve volunteer with local agencies that work against hunger. We have the good fortune to have 60 acres in which our students run and play, participate in athletics, and develop their own personal fitness goals, allowing them to develop healthy habits from the earliest age.
 
The way the school supports, reflects on, and models the way we should think about food lends complexity to something that might seem simple at first. And should you come to Catlin Gabel’s campus, be sure to stop by our Barn, the center of our food service, and see how that has changed, with its emphasis on fresh, local, and healthful foods. It’s a representation of our seriousness about nutrition, health, sustainability, and global awareness. In recognition of wider realities, we really do “use it up, wear it out, and eat it all.”