Real Soil, Real Food, A Real Difference Program
Unique Learning Opportunity for Teens
Real Soil, Real Food, A Real Difference is a summer food camp for teens that combines the study of current food issues with team-building experiences, hands-on learning and conversations with experts.
During the session, students study local and global concerns such as food insecurity and hunger, food safety, biotechnology and how the environment is affected by food production. In addition to studying food issues in-depth, the students work with each other during daily team-building exercises, gardening, meal preparation and project planning.
Field trips to relevant sites such as the Creston Farmers Market, DuPont Pioneer, and the Neely-Kinyon Research Farm operated by Iowa State University enhance the course materials. Each day concludes with time for reflection and dialogue.
Program Tested in 2011
2011 student Ben Mullin of Creston notes that the program includes a variety of activities that keep participants engaged. “The part I most enjoyed was our field trip to Des Moines visiting Pioneer Hi-Bred International headquarters,” he says. “That afternoon, we went up to Woodward and saw the Picket Fence Creamery. I highly recommend their mint ice cream!”
But the program isn’t all fun and games. It’s serious and focused too. “We covered issues everywhere from food insecurity to obesity to producing local food and everything in between,” Mullin adds. “We learned a lot about the importance of leadership as well as the importance of physical fitness and food safety. Food safety was one of the more important topics for me, because I run a small business at the Creston Farmers’ Market baking and selling food.”
During an Oxfam meal activity, participants and guests sat on the floor to consume plain rice and water to represent the most food-insecure of the world’s population. As part of the nutrition curriculum, participants assessed their own eating and exercise habits.
After the summer camp experience, students will plan and implement a related independent project that involves their peers. Under the guidance of WCI staff, each student has about a year to complete his or her project. Results will be shared with the incoming class and posted to the Real Soil, Real Food, A Real Difference website (www.realsoil.org).
Leadership, problem solving
“This program centers on food, which seems like a simple subject,” says Diane Weiland, CEO. “In reality, there are many facets to food such as obesity, gardening, nutrition, food insecurity, cultural traditions, environmental footprint and food safety. One way to broaden the impact of the program is to have teens teaching teens. That is the premise of challenging participants to do an independent project engaging their peers.”
Dr. Deb Hall of Adair County Extension developed the curriculum. Over the years, local and statewide guest speakers included professionals from DuPont Pioneer, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the World Food Prize, ISU’s Neely-Kinyon Research Farm, Iowa Department of Human Services, Southwest Iowa Egg Co-op, Adair County Home Care, Creston Farmers Market, Early Morning Harvest, and Picket Fence Creamery.
Feedback from students indicates the program helps develop leadership and problem solving skills and increases their knowledge base for potential careers in agriculture, food science, health and wellness, social services, environmental studies and other areas. The program’s development and pilot effort were funded, in part, by a grant from the Wallace Global Fund.
Apply for 2014 sessions
The Wallace Centers of Iowa will offer one session during summer 2014: July 6-11. Cost for each participant is $500, which includes all meals, snacks, field trips, materials, a t-shirt and other supplies. Scholarships are available. If needed, several lodging options are available for an additional fee.
2014 Sample Day
• Team building
• Working in the produce garden
• Issue investigation
• Networking with experts to develop solutions
• Physical activity
• Meal/snack planning and preparation
• Fun, laughter, making new friends, great food, and new experiences
Additionally there will be field trips to various sites such as DuPont Pioneer, Iowa State University, the World Food Prize, farmers markets and conservation projects. If time allows, there may be group activities such as swimming, movies, etc. The usual day will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude around 7 p.m.
A short application process will determine the participants for each session. The selection process will look for potential leaders, problem solvers and those interested in directing positive outcomes. Students living in urban and suburban areas are especially encouraged to apply. Applications are due May 1. Further program information is available at www.RealSoil.org or from Diane Weiland at 641-337-5019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food Camp Application
At the end of the 2011 pilot program, several students shared their thoughts about what they learned and what they plan to do next.