Reaching Educators with Real Facts

Published online: Apr 16, 2021 News
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This article appears in the April 2021 issue of Sugar Producer.

For the 27,000 family and consumer science (FCS) teachers across the U.S., the topic of sugar frequently comes up in class. Formerly known as home economics, family and consumer science class is a prime opportunity to educate the next generation of consumers about real sugar and the role it plays in a nutritious, balanced and enjoyable diet. Teachers need accurate information about real sugar to correct the misperceptions their students, who are largely influenced by misinformation on social media, have about sugar.

Materials Grounded in Science

Providing educators — including those in FCS, homeschool programs, 4-H, extension programs and more — with free science-based educational materials that help tell real sugar’s story is one of our top priorities at the Sugar Association. From coloring books to myth-busting fact sheets, offered in English and Spanish, our materials are being used across the country. In 2020 we distributed 41,000 hard copies of materials to teachers who ordered from our website in addition to the more than 11,000 direct downloads.

While all of our materials are available on our website, we bring them directly to educators by sharing and promoting them on social media and at educator conferences. On social media, Pinterest has proven to be the best platform to get in front of new teachers, with 73 percent of educators using Pinterest for professional reasons, looking for lesson plans and classroom materials.

Amplifying Our Voice

Participating in national and regional educator conferences and workshops provides the opportunity to meet with educators one on one to answer their questions, share our real sugar resources and identify additional needs. The audience at these conferences includes traditional educators, like FCS professionals, as well as those who teach in other settings. For example, the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) audience includes teachers as well as high-school aged leaders, public health professionals, 4-H leaders, and extension professionals who teach adult courses. Each of these educators reaches one to 1,500 students and leaders in youth and adult education. These conferences also allow us to collaborate on presentations with organizations like the Home Baking Association.

The Home Baking Association (HBA) is an important partner in reaching educators with the facts about real sugar. Their target audience includes FCS, culinary, and food and nutrition extension educators as well as after-school and community youth program educators. The teachers they serve reach 7.25 million consumers annually. As a member of HBA, the educational materials we offer are shared with educators and home bakers as HBA promotes the many benefits of home baking and teach about essential ingredients in baking, like real sugar. Sugar Association president and CEO Courtney Gaine currently serves as the president of the Home Baking Association.

Featured Resource: Field to Table STEAM Packet

Many educators are eager for new educational materials about sugar, with a recent poll revealing 45 percent of teachers receive questions about sugar from students frequently. And 76 percent reported that education surrounding the Nutrition Facts Label is a top priority. To help these educators, we developed a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) packet for students in grades 7 through 12. This 22-page packet provides lesson plans on 10 topics and includes activities to enhance classroom or at-home learning. It covers sugar’s history, how it is naturally made by plants, its impact on the environment, why it is added to foods and more, in addition to Nutrition Facts Label education.

STEAM is a popular educational approach to learning that encourages students to think more broadly about how what they are learning applies to the real world. The STEAM focus is complemented by information about history and nutrition to ensure a well-rounded curriculum that can be customized to the appropriate grade level.

In effort to increase accessibility and use of our materials, we also turn the most popular resources into videos. The STEAM Packet will be a six-part video series available this spring.

Telling Real Sugar’s Story to the Next Generation

Students are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how to eat a balanced diet. Our materials give educators the tools to empower students to understand their diet and how a balanced lifestyle includes real sugar in moderation.

It is more important than ever before to make sure the true story of real sugar gets told. All our resources are grounded in science and equipped with references to support the facts.