Meat eater, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan: there are as many names for one’s eating preference these days as there are varieties of fruit. And where our food comes from is becoming as important to some as what we eat. Two new books for middle-graders take a look at these and other food-related issues with great success.
In Meatless?, author Sarah Elton begins her examination of humans’ carnivorous tendencies with an anecdote illustrating how her own way of thinking about meat changed the day she helped kill a chicken on a farm. The eye-opening experience made her curious about individuals who choose not to eat meat and their reasons for doing so.
Using a straightforward approach, the author delivers a text that is both engaging and insightful. Elton breaks her information down into four parts. “A History of Meat-Eating” discusses the human race’s long dependence on animals for food, examines people’s beliefs about meat throughout history, and explains the rules governing meat eating in six religions. “Why Go Vegetarian” explores how factors such as animal welfare, the high cost of meat, greenhouse gas emissions, and food security motivate people to leave meat behind. “If Not Meat, Then What?” describes the nutritional value of meat and vegetarian alternatives, details food combinations that offer complete proteins, and explains five forms of faux meat. And “Becoming Vegetarian” guides readers through the maintenance of a healthy meatless diet, offers meal plans, advises readers how to inform friends and family of their decision to go meatless, and introduces anecdotes from vegan/vegetarian kids with insights and tips on meatless living.
Sidebars break up the information into digestible parts while colour illustrations round out the text. The book’s back matter includes suggestions for further reading, vegetarian cookbook recommendations, and meat-related quotes from eight influential figures.
Given that meat and vegetables are often readily available at stores that don’t even specialize in groceries, it’s no surprise that kids are disconnected from what they eat and clueless about the journey their food takes from field to fork. In Eat Up!, authors Antonia Banyard and Paula Ayer aim to cultivate a nation of food-literate young people.
Ayer and Banyard’s guide explores food through multiple lenses. They discuss the geopolitical aspects of food production, including examinations of national food programs and the ways in which prices are affected by politics. The authors also highlight the power of edible products, noting that growing, processing, and transporting food consumes about 30 per cent of the world’s energy, and the food industry is the U.S.’s second biggest advertiser. They also look at personal factors, with information from surveys revealing how family eating patterns have changed over time.
Belle Wuthrich’s brightly coloured graphics lend the book a pleasant visual aspect and clarity. The text, written in an honest and direct tone, is peppered with subtle humour and interesting details – such as the fact that more than 100 million children around the world work in agriculture, or the sobering statistic that as many as 50 per cent of children in Canada’s Far North live in food-insecure households.
The authors are careful to balance the harsher information with hope, however, noting that children have made a difference by championing food programs in their schools and cities, and even influencing major food companies to change their policies. In closing, the authors issue a call to action for readers to make positive changes of their own.
For kids who are transitioning from picky eaters to thoughtful gourmands, these two books offer a wealth of thought-provoking information