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Multimedia Bibliography: Food and Nutrition

Introduction: Since the origin of humanity, food has been an essential component of society. Across centuries families and communities have been “breaking bread” together, so to speak, for centuries, however a shift in American food production in the mid-twentieth century towards a mass production/fast food culture has drastically changed Western society’s eating habits.  Families rush through a drive through for dinner, 5 minute meals cookbooks fly off the shelves in bookstores and libraries, and it has become increasingly common for kids to eat solely pre-packaged, processed  meals. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) obesity amongst children and adolescents has tripled since 1980. Presently, over 17%–or 12.5 million–children in the United States ages 2-19 are obese. These alarming statistics trigger a gamut of questions, two of the most significant being: is there a lack of information on nutrition and healthy eating habits?  Or is there simply a lack of awareness/usage of these nutrition resources? This bibliography targets the latter question by compiling a list of multimedia resources appropriate for middle grade children–examining  text, realia, web and media sources. Cookbooks are included in realia, because the often the best way to demystify healthy food choices is to see, touch,  create and taste  them yourself.

CDC. “Obesity Rates among all Children in the United States.” Accessed November 22, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html/

Target Age: 2nd-5th grade


Schlosser, Erick and Charles Wilson. Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Chew on This explores the sinister economic, agricultural and health implications of the fast food industry by recounting the inception and growth of this type of food preparation and distribution. The sheer size (318 pages!) of Schlosser’s and Wilson’s book may intimidate readers; however, its lively tone and stand-alone chapters make this book an engaging read.

Bramwell, Martyn. Food Watch. Dorling Kindersley, 2001.
In true DK fashion Food Watch teems with graphics, text boxes and beautiful full color photographs. Bramwell discusses topics that are deceptively obvious, such as where food really comes from. Targeting the disparity between food scarcity in developing states and the abundance of food in the first world,  Bramwell points out, “Pie eating contests are fun, but only rich people can afford to waste food. Tonnes of unwanted food and packaging are thrown away every day” (13). Food Watch decodes buzzwords readers may be familiar with but not really understand, such as “fair trade, “famine,” “nutritionist,” and includes numerous experiments, such as ripening bananas to look for ethylene that further illustrate Bramwell’s narrative (21). Overall this book is fascinating, frightening and completely on point in regards to the production, packaging and dispersion of food not only in North America but throughout the world.

Goldberg, Jake. Food: The Struggle to Sustain the Human Community. Franklin Watts, 1999.

Goldberg asserts on the dust jacket of his book, “Food is the fuel of human labor, and everything we have accomplished, or failed to accomplish depends upon it.” Because a trip to the local supermarket does little to reflect the story of how food really is grown, produced and distributed–and the impact of these activities on the world–Goldberg delves deeply and eloquently into topics such as the origin of food, agricultural development, food and civilization, hunger and more. This book is relatively lengthy (204 pages) and text heavy, so it would be best for older readers.

Powell, Jillian. Everyone Eats: Rice. Raintree, Steck-Vaughn, 1997.
Powell’s book explores the composition, farming and customs surrounding the world’s second most popular grain: rice (4). Complete with full color illustrations, photographs and recipes this book is an excellent tool to educate young readers a food they may often eat, but know very little about.

Peeples, H. I. Where Does this Come From?: Bubble Gum. Contemporary Books, Inc.
Annotation: This matter-of-fact book draws upon the origins, production and consumption habits of bubble gum. While it does discuss corn syrup and synthetic ingredients Peeples does not delve into the consequences of excessive sugary gum chewing, such as increased risk of cavities. This brief book would be best for younger readers (i.e. 1st-3rd grade).

Rau, Dana Meachen. Going Organic: A Healthy Guide to Making the Switch. Compass Books, 2012.
“You have the power to make a healthier world with every bite” declares Rau as she introduces the scope of her book (7). Rau explores the characteristics of organic foods, and how the difference natural growing techniques have on the world and its inhabitants. Topics include “the Dirty Dozen,” definitions of buzzwords such as “organic,” “sustainable,” and “local,” recipes, seasonal foods,  and ideas for making the switch to organic foods.

Rau Dana Meachen. Going Vegetarian: A Healthy Guide to Making the Switch. Compass Books, 2012.
Rau explores the culture of vegetarianism–discussing a range of reasons why adults and children alike make a choice to not eat meat. This book features full color photographs, accounts of real life vegetarian youngsters, and information about how to make the switch, including shopping tips, and advice for deciphering labels.  Going Vegetarian would be excellent for upper elementary readers who may be considering this lifestyle choice.

Rau, Dana Meachen. Going Vegan: A Healthy Guide to Making the Switch. Compass Books, 2012.
Austin Public Library Description: “Describes the benefits, challenges, and steps to switching to a vegan diet.”

Senker, Cath. Healthy Eating. Power Kids Press, 2004.
Presumably in an attempt to achieve clarity, Senker treads dangerously into the realm of oversimplification and generalization. For example, Senker states, “Fill yourself up with cereals,” “Foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice give you energy that lasts,” and in a bid to encourage children to consume fewer sugary beverages, Senker suggests, “Milk is healthy too. Why not make a milkshake?” (5, 6, 17). The first two statements are problematic because recent research has disproved that grains should be the main component of our diets. Additionally, grains–especially if they are not whole wheat–are essentially composed of carbohydrates which give ephemeral energy, whereas proteins imbue the body with lasting energy. The final statement seems paradoxical because milkshakes traditionally are prepared with a mixture of sugary, fatty ice cream and milk–which should scarcely be considered as a staple in a child’s diet. Furthermore, Senker does not suggest methods for preparing a healthy version of a milkshake. While this book does consider pertinent topics related to healthy eating habits, it is harmfully oversimplified.

Sullivan, Jaclyn. What’s in Your Soda? Rosen Publishng Group, 2012.
What’s in Your Soda? is part of the What’s in Your Fast Food series, and explores the naissance and components of this popular beverage. Sullivan notes the popularity of soda, noting “You have probably seen lots of adults drinking soda too” before cautioning that the prevalence of soda does not indicate nutritional benefits (5). After discussing both high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, Sullivan utilizes a Nutrition Fact label to explain how to discern which type of sweetener a soda contains. Sullivan also includes a glossary and an index of popular terms. What’s in Your Soda is a compact book, that refrains from a preachy tone by simply relaying facts about soda’s ingredients and effects on consumers–wisely leaving readers to make their own informed conclusions about this popular drink.


“Choose My Plate.” USDA. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/print-materials-ordering/graphic -resources.html. Accessed November 24, 2012.
The My Plate has replaced the Food Guide Pyramid as a printable graphic representation of suggested portioning of various food groups. The USDA offers a variety of My Plate downloads that can be used to educate children on what and how much should be on their plate for a nutritious diet.

Jacob, Jeanne and Michael Ashkenazi. The World Cookbook for Students. Volume I: Afghanistan to Cook Islands. Greenwood Press, 2007.
In an interesting mix that is one part cookbook plus one part encyclopedia, Jacob and Ashkenazi’s book compiles information about different countries and culturally specific recipes. While this books contains a wealth of interesting information, recipes, a glossary, and an index, it lacks illustration and color. However, the entries are brief and to the point, covering topics such as “Foodstuffs,” “Typical Dishes,” “Styles of Eating,” as well as approximately 5-8 recipes from each country.

Lagasse, Emeril. Theres a Chef in My World: Recipes that Take you Places. HarperCollins, 2006.
Lagasse enumerates that the primary goal of his cookbook is to “excite young folks about food and cooking so that they might enjoy participating in meals prepared at home with friends and family” as well as “broaden the horizons of others and allow them to experienced different corners of the world and to feel part of a bigger family” (2). In a world where picky eating habits and separate dinners are expected as a rule rather than an exception, Lagasse’s comprehensive, brightly illustrated cookbook containing more than 75 whole food recipes from around the world is an exciting breath of fresh air. Lagasse includes cultural and geographical context, safety information, and helpful hints with each recipe.  For example, Lagasse instructs readers not only how to prepare Edamame, but also includes historical information about it, as well as advice for how to eat it (50-51). This book, despite the inadvertently humorous pictures of Emeril on every page, is an excellent resource for families!

“Nutrition Facts Label.” FDA. http://www.fda.gov/food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/NFLPM/ucm 274593.htm#twoparts. Accessed November 24, 2012.
This handy printable  graphic explains the details of the common, but potentially confusing nutrition facts label. This particular graphic highlight portions of the label to indicate what sorts of nutrients young consumers might need less of (fats, sugars, cholesterol, etc) and which to ensure they are getting enough of (i.e. vitamins, iron, etc.).

Yolen, Jane and Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters. Crocodile Books, 2006.
Storyteller Jane Yolen, home cook Heidi Stemple and illustrator Phillipe Beha collaborate to create a unique cookbook that fuses literature, art and food. Structurally, Yolen retells a folktale, including beige sidebars which give historical information about the text and cultural information about what life was like during the time of the folktale. Next Stemple introduces a recipe for a food that was featured in the folktale, as well as beige sidebars including facts about the food. This lovely cookbook singularly reintroduces the lost arts of storytelling and cuisine in an exciting,appealing way that could be enjoyed by hungry bibliophiles of all ages.


“Food Labels tell the Story.” NIEHS. http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/explore/hliving/food3_foodlabels. Accessed November 20.
This webpage, from the National Institute for Environmental Health Science, explores topics relating to nutrition, for example it dissects the data found on a nutrition label. Judging by the cartoonish animal graphics, it seems to target a younger audience, however, it is rather text heavy so younger ones may have problems using this site on their own.

“Kids’ Health.” Nemours Foundation. http://kidshealth.org/kid/. Accessed 14 November 2012.
Kids’ Health addresses a broad range of issues related to health, nutrition and development in a lively tone targeted to a middle grade audience. In the “Staying Healthy” section, children can click on links such as “Being good to my body,” “Staying fit and having fun,” and “Wondering about Weight.” Additionally, children can calculate their BMI, browse recipes, answer their questions via the Kids’ Health Dictionary,” and much more.

Medline Plus Children’s Page. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childrenspage.html.
Medline Plus Children’s Page serves as a directory to a gamut of health and nutrition related websites from various providers such as the CDC, FDA and Nemours Foundation.

Web MD FIT Kids. http://fit.webmd.com/kids/. Accessed 14 November 2012.
FIT Kids with its bright, gender neutral design is graphically appealing to the modern child who has most likely grown up in a wired environment. FIT Kids features Food challenges such as “Having a salad? Measure out two tablespoons of dressing.” Users can click “Why is this good?”  to learn more or select “Did it!” to save their personalized results. This webpage also addresses topics such as mood, fitness, and “recharge” which helps the busy child find ways to get the rest they need. Children could navigate this user-friendly website without adult guidance.


How Did that Get in my Lunchbox?  Nutmeg Media, 2011.
How Did that Get in my Lunchbox features narrated illustrations depicting how food is grown and processed. In many ways, this movie seems like propaganda for food corporations as it shows scientists making cheese, and juice being pasteurized and packaged into brightly colored juice boxes emblazoned with “100% Fruit!” Overall, this movie lacks freshness or innovation and seems to do little but parrot semi-truths.

Human Body in Action: Digestive and Excretory System.  Schlessinger Science Library, 2006.
Approaching food and nutrition from an anatomical perspective, Human Body In Action explores the process that occurs in the body after food and liquids are consumed. This movie employs both graphics, experiments, live actors and narrators to tell the story of digestion and excretion, however, it does not explain in any sort of depth how the different types of food and varying levels of nutrition affect the body.

Sweety Bicycle Blowout. KEDT, South Texas Public Broadcasting System, 2005.
This video utilizes satire to showcase the nefarious advertising tactics fast food chains and major processed food distributors employ to to woo children to crave their products. Sweety Bicycle Blowout takes place on a gameshow where crooked host Tad Adman entices young contestants with celebrities, bribery and toys to trade new bikes for processed Sweety foods. It is almost scary how closely the satire of this movie reflects actual advertising ploys.

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