Written by: Elizabeth Esparza, FoodCorps Service Member with Pittsburg Unified School District
Fifth graders at Willow Cove Elementary in Pittsburg are on a mission to make their school Takis free. Takis are a popular spicy rolled tortilla chip snack, similar to Hot Cheetos in spice and unhealthiness. For a project in class, students began to do some research on the unhealthy and potentially harmful ingredients present in the snack and found that they just could not keep the knowledge to themselves.Back in November, I got the chance to work with this class and build upon what they were learning about Takis by talking about reading ingredients, tracing our food, and eating close to the source. So, how did we go about breaking down why a snack we already knew was not good for us should be removed from our diets?
- First, we separated all twenty-two ingredients into those we recognized and those we didn’t, looking up those words we didn’t recognize, resulting in a dismaying sixteen unknown ingredients to just six recognizable.
- We lit the Takis on fire to see what some of those ingredients we couldn’t recognize really could do.
- Next, we explored what it is that we liked about Takis (they’re spicy and crunchy with a hint of lime). How could we recreate this in a healthier alternative?
- I pulled out three more ingredient cards: jicama, cayenne pepper, and lime. With three for three recognizable ingredients, this seemed like a good replacement. We prepared the snack and it was a huge success!
- Finally, to drive the point home, I had the class try to trace each snack back to its origins. Let’s just say tracking jicama, cayenne, and lime back to their plant roots was far easier than tracking back the Takis, which started with corn, but had a lot of question marks between corn and our stores.
After deepening their Takis knowledge, the students were more committed than ever to work on their “Say No to Takis Campaign,” and the following month, I met up with them again to provide fresh snacks as they traveled from classroom to classroom in their school, urging other classes to say no to Takis, and stressed the importance of moderation when eating all food that’s not too good for us. I was happy to stand in the back and hold the snacks with the fifth graders more than capable of spreading this message. Even after a huge success, the students came back to class and asked, “What do we do next?”
About the Author:
Elizabeth Esparza is currently the FoodCorps Service Member with Pittsburg Unified School District. At her current placement, Elizabeth manages cafeteria taste tests, instructs several garden-based lessons, and is currently helping with creating curriculum kits at 13 elementary schools for garden-based education.
Pittsburg Unified School District’s Child Nutrition Services Department is made up of a team of food and nutrition professionals that are dedicated to students’ health, well being and their ability to learn. The Pittsburg Unified School District’s Wellness Plan supports learning by promoting healthy habits for lifelong nutrition and fitness. To learn more about PUSD, please visit their website.
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. To find out more, please visit their website.