Whole Foods gives kids the digital dirt on organics

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Whole Foods gives kids the digital dirt on organics

By Mike Troy - 07/12/2017

The Whole Kids Foundation with support from the nation’s largest natural and organic products wholesaler has created a new set of resources to educate a future generation of shoppers.

Whole Kids Foundation, a Whole Foods Market Foundation launched in 2011, teamed up with United Natural Foods, the $8.5 billion wholesalers of natural, organic and specialty foods and the Center for Ecoliteracy to develop a free tablet-based organic education app. The app, available via Google Play and the App Store, is meant to provide a fun way for kids and parents to learn what it looks and feels like to grow food in harmony with nature.

The app is called “Starting With Soil” and is organized as an interactive story with four chapters. The first three demonstrate how nature creates soil and how long this process takes, the importance of pollinators, and the critical roles animals, the weather, microorganisms and cover crops play in organic farming. The final chapter presents ways families can explore organic education at home, in school, in the community or while they shop.

"We wanted to create a playful way to help kids understand the importance of healthy soil and see first-hand the roles that plants, animals and people play in keeping it balanced," said Nona Evans, President and Executive Director of Whole Kids Foundation, an organization that has raised $21 million since its inception in 2011. "We think it's critical kids understand where food comes from, the process it goes through to land on our plates and the significant effects these processes have on our environment, communities and bodies."

The app was designed with help from the Center for Ecoliteracy for a third-grade reading level with plenty of interesting visuals. Slow motion video allows kids to watch bees pollinating and butterflies extracting nectar. Time lapse photography captures the way apple, radish and bean seeds become seedlings that burst through topsoil and there are images of nematodes, algae and protozoa. Users are able to plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans and squash are planted together. Animation and sound effects tie the content together.

"Soil is literally packed with reciprocal and fascinating relationships, and kids are captivated to discover that life and energy are alive and well beneath their feet," said Zenobia Barlow, Executive Director of the Center for Ecoliteracy.