​​The Wisconsin Food Systems Education Conceptual Framework

Various community groups and educational programs have emerged in recent years with a charge to re-invigorate food awareness in Wisconsin’s culture.  Terms like food literacy have gained attention, coinciding with the growth of various movements associated with “re-fooding” our nation. Yet, systemic food-related issues have not disappeared and are often presented as distinct, stand-alone problems, begging the need for more work and continued effort. A holistic approach to food systems education that is founded in awareness-building rather than advocacy is necessary.

The Wisconsin Food Systems Education Conceptual Framework​ was created and designed to support and unite existing efforts, together boosting and growing food systems education throughout the state. Teaching about food systems is complicated and often challenging.  This document is a guide for formal and non-formal educators, whether they are updating existing pK-12 curricula, creating a new curriculum, or developing community programming for food systems education. This guide enables comprehensive education about food systems, presented in a logical sequence so as to facilitate application at any educational level. The framework allows for cohesion and consistency in what is now a fundamentally essential area of education in Wisconsin. This Food Systems Education Conceptual Framework is not a curriculum itself. Rather, the framework provides the foundation and organizing structure through which curricula, activity guides, programs, specific lessons, and other teaching materials are developed, whether that be in a pK-12 setting or a community setting. As food systems understandings evolve, along with our food systems themselves, the framework will too evolve.

Many individuals and organizations provided input in developing this conceptual framework. The Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education conducted a survey to gather information about food systems literacy and education from individuals, businesses, and organizations in Wisconsin who are involved in some aspect of food systems work. The WCEE also collaborated with the UW Extension - Cooperative Extension Community Food Systems Team to generate concept ideas and provide comments and edits on drafts of the framework. Existing conceptual frameworks, such as the K-12 Energy Education Program—A Conceptual Guide in Wisconsin and the Learning, Experiences, & Activities in Forestry (LEAF)—A Conceptual Guide to K-12 Forestry Education in Wisconsin, were used as references for the organization of this document. In the fall of 2014, over 25 educators from schools and communities throughout the state came together to shape the Wisconsin Food Systems Education Conceptual Framework, crafting the suggested scope and sequence section at an all day workshop. Attendees dissected the framework and aligned the concepts to the grade levels at which they should ideally be taught, while also discussing how to apply the framework in environments outside of pK-12.​