Ideas for Education
One in seven households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.
From Julia Davis, teacher at Polytechnic High School in Pasadena, CA on how her class, Memoir and Social Change, incorporated DIVE! into the curriculum.

"Memoir and Social change is an unconventional English class that asks students to take the extensive language study of their first three years at Polytechnic School to new heights: they have to put words into action. We study memoir first semester so that students can explore who they are and what they stand for as individuals; then, second semester they explore social justice issues that resonate with who they are, and they have to join with classmates in problem-solving real world issues.

First semester, to prepare for second semester’s focus in social change, I showed the kids a smattering of documentaries. Dive! was one of them, and the students immediately loved it. It was local, presented a simple and solvable problem, and had a blend of irreverence and heart that spoke to them.

Dive! gave us a starting point for social change. Its power was elemental, in a way: all students no matter their background were shocked that so much food goes to waste because it’s easier to waste it than donate it. Their sense of justice was pricked.

They decided they wanted to study food generally and food waste specifically second semester. I compiled some readings for them—Wendell Berry, Frances Moore Lappe and others—that covered the issue of food from various perspectives: spiritual, ethical, environmental, psychological. They had to write an essay on the meaning of food, doing an analysis of their favorite meal or favorite food experience. They also did what I call an “empathy dinner.” They had to have dinner with someone very different from them over a meal both parties enjoy, and then write about it. The idea behind this came from a book Frances Moore Lappe wrote with her daughter called Hope’s Edge, which they introduce with these words:

“Because food is our most primal need and our common bond to the earth and one another, it can ground us as we stretch ourselves to draw in all the interlaced threads—so we can weave a whole, meaningful picture. … With food as a starting point, we can choose to meet people and to encounter events so powerful that they jar us out of our ordinary way of seeing the world, and open us up to new, uplifting, and empowering possibilities.”

I wanted them to understand the universality and power of food, and overwhelmingly their empathy papers revealed that they had more similarities than differences with their “opposites.”

The students have now seen Dive! three times—and it holds up! As a class they joined the Eat Trash campaign, as did 100 of their peers at Poly. Educationally, the students have learned a lot from the film about how to interrogate an issue and how to confront power when it’s necessary to do so. When they met with Matt Sloan, Trader Joe’s VP of Marketing, they showed that they had learned from Jeremy how to strike a firm and respectful tone as a concerned citizen. The film gave them the information and the activist tools to not only resist Sloan’s easy answers as to why Trader Joe’s couldn’t do more but also to try to persuade him why a corporate policy is what concerned customers—not to mention hungry people—deserve.

Overall, there’s such a respect for food that comes through in the film. And this is what my kids now get. My very well-fed, educationally and, largely, economically privileged kids—they get that food simply can’t be wasted as people go hungry. Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Green, Leftie—we’ve got ‘em all in MSC and they all agree: it’s just disrespectful, it’s just wrong, it’s just arrogant to throw out edible food. And they feel empowered to do something about it. What else is education about?"