Commentary: Collaborative effort helps people learn about food


Issue Date: September 11, 2019
By Judy Culbertson
Judy Culbertson
McDonald’s restaurants in parts of California and Nevada have been distributing tray liners created in partnership with the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, featuring activities to help customers learn where in California food items in McDonald’s meals originate.

If you have been to a McDonald's restaurant recently in parts of California and Nevada, you may have noticed one of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom's most recent collaborative projects. Currently available at McDonald's restaurants from Fresno to Chico to Reno is a "Where Your Food Grows" tray liner.

It's the latest product of the partnership between McDonald's and CFAITC, which started four years ago when CFAITC began organizing classroom visits and materials for McDonald's franchise owners. In turn, the franchise owners visited classrooms and helped students understand that many of the foods served in McDonald's restaurants are grown right here on California farms and ranches.

The partnership has become more successful and popular over the years, and we wanted to extend the reach of the message to an even bigger audience. That's when the idea of a tray liner was born.

The McDonald's and CFAITC teams developed the liner, and Raley's supermarkets, a major supporter of CFAITC, offered its graphic design team to create it at no cost.

The tray liner features activities that help customers learn where in California the food items included in their McDonald's meal originate. A "Match Your Meal" activity has readers match ingredients to the commodity it comes from. Another activity encourages readers to use a map of California to identify a county that grows ingredients for McDonald's food items such as buns, beef, onions and lettuce. The tray liner also includes fun facts about California agriculture such as, "Americans consume an average of 30 pounds of lettuce per year" and "Did you know that 25% of an apple's volume is air? That's why apples float in water!"

McDonald's printed and distributed nearly 100,000 tray liners to approximately 100 stores throughout the region, starting in July and continuing at restaurants throughout the region while supplies last. CFAITC hopes to extend the reach of the tray liner to the Bay Area and Southern California. It would be amazing to see it throughout California or even nationwide.

When the tray liner made its debut, our staff went on a field trip to a local McDonald's for lunch. The team was pleased to see the tray liner being used and enjoyed watching customers move their lunches to read the information on the liner.

"We believe it is important that the content on the tray liner makes learning about agriculture fun while helping students, teachers and consumers understand where their food comes from. In fact, California farmers grow much of the delicious food served at McDonald's," said Alan Godlove, McDonald's Sacramento owner/operator.

CFAITC's partnership with McDonald's has developed into an exciting relationship. CFAITC is grateful for the support and promotion we have received, and that McDonald's is proud to partner with CFAITC to show its commitment to California farms. CFAITC agrees it is important for people to know that their food is not manufactured in a factory behind a McDonald's restaurant, but is grown right here in California. In 2018, McDonald's purchased more than 471 million pounds of products from California growers.

The tray liner has received such great reviews that people throughout the state and even in other states have requested copies. It is now available online for teachers, students and others to download for use in classrooms or just to learn where in California food is grown: www.learnaboutag.org/resources/teaching/where_food.pdf.

CFAITC is also working on developing a lesson plan that builds on the concepts from the tray liner and dives deeper into how food is grown on California farms and ranches. The lesson plan will be used by teachers and will assist McDonald's franchise owners with classroom presentations. We expect to complete work on the lesson plan this fall.

The McDonald's tray liner contributed to CFAITC's overall mission to increase awareness and understanding of agriculture among California educators and students. To learn more about other current projects or to find free, standards-aligned teacher resources for incorporating agriculture in the classroom, visit our website at LearnAboutAg.org.

(Judy Culbertson is executive director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. She may be contacted at Judy@LearnAboutAg.org.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.