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1. WHERE DOES OUR FOOD COME FROM?

In our society, we often don't consider our food at any stage before the supermarket. Yet, the food we eat was once alive and growing. This section is intended to stimulate thought into the nature and origin of our food.

Concepts: Our food comes from plants. (Even animals that have been killed for meat have eaten plants, or have eaten animals that have eaten plants). Our food comes from lots of different plant parts. These parts were essential to the plants when they were alive.

 

1.1 The different parts of plants

With the children, try to name all the different, basic parts that plants comprise. If they understand a little about the growth of plants, discuss the functions they serve:

Plant parts that we eat

Roots: These anchor the plant in the ground, so it doesn't fall over or blow away. They also take up water and food (nutrients) from the soil.

Sap: This is the plant's blood. It passes through all the parts, supplying water and nutrients.

Stem: This conducts sap, which carries water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. It also carries food (sugars) made in the leaves [by photosynthesis] to the roots.

Leaves: These "breathe in" carbon dioxide and "breathe out" oxygen, and use sunlight to make food (sugars).

Flowers: These reproduce with the flowers from other plants [e.g. wind blows pollen from one flower to another, or bees transfer pollen by visiting one then another], to make new plants.

Fruit: This grows from a flower that has reproduced. It will nurture the new, forming seeds.

Seeds: These are the result of reproduction. They will grow into new plants that are mixtures of each parent.

An extra part could be included:

Bark: This protects the stem from damage, in some types of plants, e.g. trees.

 

1.2 The parts that our food comes from

Give the children a few minutes to think, on their own, about what they had eaten or drunk the previous evening or lunchtime. What were five plant parts within the food or drink? If they ate a blend of different plants, what plants and what parts was it made from? For example, pasta sauce may have been made from tomatoes (fruit), carrots (root), celery (stem), etc. If the meal had contained any meat, what animal was it from? What plant and what parts of the plant did the animal eat? For example, beefburgers come from cows that ate the leaves of grass. As a group, discuss what everyone ate and where it came from.

It should be anticipated that the origins of many foods will be unknown by the children. However, the purpose of the exercise is not on asking questions that will be easily answered. Rather, it is useful in establishing curiosity and consideration of the living things that provided our food. It should always be emphasised that the parts we eat were essential to the plant when it lived; "food" is not simply unwanted surplus, awaiting human consumption. Furthermore, as will be shown later, the growth of plants is only made possible by their interactions with other organisms [even plants grown by intensive agriculture have requirements, such as the carbon dioxide released by animals, which the farmer cannot supply]. Encourage the children to think about plant parts when they eat their next meal.

 

1.3 The plant parts game

Ask each child to write a different one of their plant foods on each of two cards, making sure that nobody duplicates the same food. Mix these cards with some prepared cards and deal them all out, at random. Can everyone place his cards in the right position on the Plant Parts Poster? [The shaded rectangles on the poster are spaces to lay the food cards.]

Suggestions for food cards:

LEAF

FLOWER

FRUIT

SEED

ROOT

SAP

STEM

BARK

Cabbage

Broccoli

Apple

Baked beans

Beetroot

Chewing gum

Celery

Cinnamon

Lettuce

Cauliflower

Banana

Bread

Carrot

Maple syrup

Rhubarb

.

Mint

Chamomile tea

Chilli

Chocolate

Parsnip

Sugar

Potato

.

Parsley

Honey

Cucumber

Coca-Cola

Radish

.

Chips

.

Spinach

.

Olive

Coffee

. .

.

.

Tea

.

Pumpkin

Peanuts

. . . .
. .

Raisins

Peas

. . . .
. .

Tomato ketchup

Sweetcorn

. . . .

 

Some notes on these foods:

The traditional fruit/vegetable categories can be misleading, since many so-called "vegetables" are in fact fruits. That is, they are the part of the plant where new seeds form [similar to a mammalís womb]. So, anything containing seeds is actually a fruit, e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, olives.

Grains such as oats (porridge), wheat (bread and spaghetti), rice, etc. are all seeds. Sweetcorn is the seed from corn cobs (which are fruit).

Beans (including lentils, coffee, cocoa (chocolate) and peas are seeds. The pods in which they grow are the fruit. Hence, runner beans are fruit, with their seeds inside.

Sugar is made from the sap of crushed sugarcane (the stem).

Coca-Cola is made from cola nuts, which, like other nuts, are seeds.

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