Sacramento State’s F2F Academy brought high school students from the West Coast on a tour of Sacramento’s agricultural industry during its inaugural program last week.
Nicole Rogers runs the farm-to-fork initiative for the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. The curriculum, she said, is simply the story of food.
One afternoon, the class visited a Raley’s in West Sacramento to learn from corporate dietitian Emmie Satrazemis about misleading labels and the hidden journey food takes as it is processed.
They went around the store analyzing scientific jargon that disguises added sugar, preservatives and artificial ingredients, and slowly the students’ favorite snacks, even the healthy snack bars, were revealed to be high in sugar.
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Students walked from Raley’s to Fiery Ginger Farm, which the grocery chain supports by buying about 25 percent of its produce to support local food banks in the Food for Families program.
“Farming in an urban setting has lots of advantages,” said Shayne Zurilgen, co-founder of Fiery Ginger Farm. “There is lots of disused land, it’s easier to obtain, you’re right in the center of your market. We want them to see that this could be a future career for them.”
Zurilgen taught middle school before setting up Fiery Ginger Farm in the middle of an urban landscape with Hope Sippola, a friend and fellow graduate of the California Farm Academy. Getting to teach children again was one of his motivations for becoming an instructor in the F2F Academy.
He said his hope is that a new generation of farmers will take the helm instead of letting smaller family farms fall to large corporate, single-crop producers.
Having grown up in Arbuckle, freshman Abby Mendoza joined the program to see the benefits of growing in urban areas that Zurilgen described.
“I live in a farming community so it was cool to go to a bigger city and see where they get their produce, how they get it to stores, and how my town helps the purchasing of produce,” Mendoza said.
While Mendoza isn’t sure whether to continue studying agriculture, Lorilee Niesen of Capitol Region Academies for the Next Economy said the goal of programs like F2F Academy is to foster proper food education.
The organization supports Farm to Fork academies in five high schools in California, some of which go beyond the typical agriculture programs to include culinary classes using the food they produce to create healthy recipes.
For some students, the decision to join the program was wanting to know the behind-the-scenes stories of foods in their pantries and refrigerators.
“I love cooking,” said Noah Kuhl, a sophomore from McNary High School in Keizer, Ore. “So I thought it would be interesting to learn where my food comes from and how it’s produced.”