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Dixie’s rice balls ensure healthy meals for hungry children

Through a simple but meaningful effort, students at Dixie Magnet Elementary will provide food for children in need. “They could go hungry, and we don’t want that,” said Maya Zachry, whose class participated in the international Onigiri Action campaign.

The third graders used small cookie cutters to shape teaspoons of cooked rice and then garnished their bite-sized treats with roasted seaweed and Skittles. Chinese teacher Yan Wang also guided first and second graders in designing and drawing onigiri – the Japanese term for rice ball. For every photo of their work that Wang uploads to the project website or social media, the sponsors will provide five healthy school meals. “My students are very excited that they can do something to help others in the world,” she said.

The Chinese class, which is among the rotating specials at Dixie, recently focused on the weekly food of families in various countries. Looking at authentic pictures in the book “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats,” the students compared and contrasted their own food choices – concluding that some people need healthier diets. “It’s cool that they eat different stuff from us but also cool they eat the same stuff like fruits and vegetables,” said 8-year-old Maxwell Willoughby. “If you don’t have healthy food, then you can get sick,” he noted.

Other lessons encouraged students to identify and name common Chinese foods, including fruits and drinks. They also learned the five food categories in the USDA's MyPlate program in Chinese. Through such units, Dixie students practice investigating the world, recognizing perspectives, communicating ideas, and taking actions.

“When I introduce global issues such as ‘Hungry Planet,’ I always use visuals and videos to make the abstract topics concrete. I try to blend language and culture naturally. It is amazing how younger kids investigate the world from their point of view,” Wang said. “Schools and educators should provide opportunities for young kids to build an understanding of what others are feeling and how their own actions can impact others. If there is one thing I hope they can carry away from my class, it is empathy and tolerance of other cultures.” 

Maya, who is only 6 years old, already realizes how understanding can foster relationships. As she said, “To get to know your friends, you need to learn about their culture and who they are.”

Did you know? Oct. 16 is World Food Day.

Contact: Yan Wang, Chinese teacher at Dixie, (859) 381-3116

(Posted Oct. 12, 2021)


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