Nutritional Education and Community Involvement from an Early Age
For growing children, few things are as important as a healthy, varied diet. For a geopark, few things are as important as community involvement. Here in Itoigawa, we are working to meet both of these needs together.
The Geo School Lunch program builds upon the in-place nutritional education curriculum at Itoigawa’s schools and preschools by teaching children of all ages not only about the Itoigawa Global Geopark they live in, but also the profound way in which it shapes and enriches local cuisine.
A variety of dishes are designed creatively with the cooperation of school nutritionists to be nutritious, to highlight aspects of the Itoigawa Geopark, to use local product whenever possible, and, perhaps most importantly to the children, to be delicious! Popular dishes prepared as part of the Geo School Lunch Program include: ‘Stratified Cutlet,’ a mille-feuille-style pork cutlet the delicate layers of which represent the sandstone and mudstone stratification prominently visible at the Tsutsuishi-Hamatokuai Geosite; ‘Jade Rice,’ a combination of lightly seasoned white rice and green edamame reminiscent of the naturally-polished jade pebbles that wash up along the shores of the Oumi Coast and Itoigawa Coast Geosites; and monkfish stew, a local specialty available only during the winter.
Pictured here is an example of one such Geo School Lunch. It is almost entirely made of local ingredients and the children are explained the source of each one. From left to right are pictured: Locally-farmed white rice (an important part of Itoigawa’s economy), fishcake fried with laver (also made locally, a historically important staple of the Itoigawa diet), ‘autumn poem’ salad (another locally-grown, asparagus-like vegetable), and monkfish stew. Monkfish is a rare delicacy in Japan; to maintain sustainable population, fishing is limited to a short period of time during winter. Itoigawa’s monkfish is prized for its flavor and once a year children are treated to it at school.
Through eating these dishes and learning more about the geosites from which they are derived, children become more aware of the geopark’s activities throughout the community. They also develop a deeper understanding about how food gets to their plates. It is our hope that children take from the Geo School Lunch Program an interest in and appreciation for not only the Itoigawa Geopark, but the natural world around them, its importance, and the gifts that it provides to those who manage it carefully.