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June 22, 2018

AFRICA’S CHILDREN LEARN TO EAT SLOW

Unlike our schoolchildren whose idea of a birthday party is celebrating at a fast food party place, these Kenyan primary school students are taught to eat well and choose slow food.

I was lucky to visit yet another African country—Kenya. Part of our international councilors meeting for Slow Food was the chance to visit a slow garden (I will share that in my next article) and have a community lunch with Ark of Taste ingredients amidst tea and coffee farms up in Kenya’s central highlands of Kandara. But the part which I found so powerful and inspiring is the last activity of the day—in a primary school in Maragwa, specifically Kurunguru Primary School.

Our two bus loads of mixed races, international councilors representing different regions in the world, were welcomed at the school with dancing and lots of smiles from students, parents, and other members of a Slow Food community. The beat was infectious! A girl took my hand to make me dance to the beat.

Her smile was engaging and pure and her dance moves were so natural my two left feet felt so challenged. I survived the dance and started to make my way towards the back of the tent to avoid being asked to dance again.

Over to one side of the schoolrooms, tables were set up to show how the community saves seeds so farmers can plant again and again. “No need to buy seeds,” says Samson, a young Slow Food Kenya leader. The children are taught to also know how seeds are precious to the life of their community. There were displays of familiar crops: cassava, taro, and  lentils like Kadyos and mung bean, which are all staples of the African diet.

As we were seated to wait for the main program, the performers also staged a drama/comedy skit to demonstrate how eating well makes a healthy man. The “healthy” man then proceeds successfully to keep his wife who had threatened to leave him for being such a weak man who ate fast food and kept a diet without nutrition. It was funny but powerful enough to deliver the message.

That is the community culture they hope to preserve—songs and drama that come from their hearts.

An exceptional performance of the children capped the day’s event. The children changed the words of what we would call or sing as “bahay kubo” to deliver the message against GMOs and the threat to their natural agricultural practices. At an early age, the kids are taught the values of preserving culture and avoiding unnatural methods of growing food and promoting eating well instead.

Founder of Slow Food Carlo Petrini addressed the children: “You are the future. You are Africa.” He commended the members of Slow Food Kenya for keeping their tradition alive and preserving their community practices.

He continues, “Slow Food is for our future. Let the children eat good clean and fair food”. He almost had tears well in our eyes as we were touched by these people’s innocence and acceptance of their simple but healthy way of life.

After the songs, a poem about keeping natural ways in the farm was performed by the children as well. It is not just a “Bahay Kubo” song but a poem to boot.

That is how it gets into each child’s psyche. It’s continuous and unfragmented from school to home to school. Same thoughts . Same values. Same insights.

And that’s not a bad idea. Teaching children well and walking the talk from school to home. That’s a Slow Food community.

How I wish we could also teach our children well at school and at home. The  Slow Food movement can start one community, one school at a time. Any volunteers ?

 

 

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