Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Organic Food: A Lesson In Information Literacy

Source: Food Tech Connect
As we head into the throws of the summer and the coming onslaught of fresh produce from local growers hitting the markets, we thought it might be helpful to provide a little information literacy into the world of organic foods. We’ve long taught our students to read the nutrition labels to compare serving size, fat content, ingredients, and more using real props such as cereal boxes. But now that organic food has become mainstream in supermarket chains, it makes sense to educate our students about organics as well.

Since this is a multi-billion dollar industry today, we want our learners to know what it means to be organic, whether it is safer to eat, what are the nutrition facts, and how to read food labels. The motion graphic What Is Organic Food from Epipheo is a good resource to start with to help students understand organic foods and, more importantly, that just because something is organic, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you, healthy, or nutritious.


As the video points out, organic chicken nuggets, mac ‘n cheese, or sandwich cookies can still be considered “junk food” without pesticides. It is how the food is created, prepared or raised without chemicals, genetically modified organisms, or radiation in the process. These are just a few examples. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ingredients are nutritious, just that the ingredients are organic.

Source: Foododdity (detail)

Source: USDA Organic Progra
If we want our kids to be smart consumers, they need to know who gets to use the USDA Organic label. The infographic "What Does Organic Really Mean?" provides a clear layout to explain who can use it. Only food where a minimum of 95% of the ingredients are organic can use the seal. Food that is between 70-94% organic cannot put the label on its products.

Marketing and packaging of food is no different from any other industry trying to sell its products. A little media literacy goes a long way in helping kids, and adults, make healthy choices. The Mayo Clinic’s page on nutrition and healthy eating gives a short overview of the real difference between organic foods and their traditional counterparts as to nutrition, safety and price. It makes a point that “organic” is not interchangeable with “natural.” Other terms that can also be misleading to consumers are “all natural,” “free range,” or “hormone-free.” These products are not organic.

Lastly, many consumers, let alone kids, are not aware of what those little stickers mean on every piece of produce we purchase. They are called “price look up codes," or PLUs. However annoying these little stickers might be, they provide valuable information about the food we're buying. So it makes sense to help students know what these numbers mean. The simple graphic called “Learn Your Labels” explains it all. If the produce is organic, the five digit code starts with a 9, if it is a genetically modified organism (GMO) an 8, and if it is conventionally grown a 4.

Source: Royal Hawaiian Orchards
Information and media literacy are important aspects of the learning process and equally so in making healthy choices. Anytime we can add to the overall knowledge of consumer information for our students, the wiser they become about scrutinizing the world around them.

For other infographics, please take a look at:

4 comments:

  1. This is what you call information drive on organic foods!
    http://livingorganic.org/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great blog! The information you provide is quiet helpful. Organic food . Get one to two free bars with every fresh direct order!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a fantastic idea! ...Thanks for the easy guide.

    Thanks for sharing
    Best Regards
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    ReplyDelete

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