The American Institute of Wine & Food HISTORY OF Days of Taste®
"In this age of fast and frozen food, we want to teach school children about real food –
where it is grown and how it is produced – so that they can develop an understanding and
appreciation of how good food is supposed to taste." Julia Child, Days of Taste Founder®
of Taste® is a national discovery-based program of The American
Institute of Wine & Food, modeled after a French program called
"Journée de Gout," which also means "Days of Taste." Designed for
fourth and fifth grade students to learn about food and how it weaves
its way through daily life from farm to table, it has become a
signature program of The AIWF. The first Days of Taste® took place in
New York City in the fall of 1995, after evolving from many early AIWF
initiatives examining issues of health, nutrition and feeding children,
and collaborations with other organizations.
In 1990, AIWF
co-founder Julia Child expressed her frustration with the way many
Americans had learned to associate food and wine with guilt and fear.
She called for an end to the misconceptions and declared that delicious
food is not in opposition to healthful food. With funding from the
National Dairy Board and the Dairy Council of California, and the help
of chefs, dieticians, food and health writers, medical doctors, and
cooking teachers, The AIWF began a coalition-building project called,
"Resetting the American Table: Creating a New Alliance of Taste and
From these discussions, the taste and health
communities produced a document, "Standards for Food and Diet Quality,"
featured in print media that reached an estimated 23 million
individuals. The document incorporated five elements: nutrition;
physical activity; food availability, quality and preparation; food
safety; and education. For the first time, the importance of quality of
life and pleasure at the table was associated with the achievement of
better health—an accomplishment that has influenced the education of
Americans about diet ever since.
The ongoing dialog showed how
Americans had begun to drift away from sharing meals with their
families, so a renewed emphasis was directed towards the social aspects
of mealtimes. This is especially important for children, said
anthropologist Margaret MacKenzie, PhD, RN, one of the original members
of the Taste and Health Alliance. "We’re squandering the opportunity to
teach our kids the arts and graces of interacting with one another, of
making pleasant conversation, of learning about (our) heritage."
Taste and Health Alliance member, author Marion Cunningham, stressed
the need to combat "culinary illiteracy" by teaching children to cook.
The AIWF began another project with the Dairy Council of California
called Making Meals Matter, providing tips and recipes on how to
prepare simple, healthy, and tasteful meals, as well as how to make
healthful choices when traveling or dining away from home. Julia Child
put the accent on moderation, insisting there are no good foods or bad
foods, but rather the day-to-day diet is what counts.
addition, The AIWF widely distributed pamphlets, brochures and articles
to further its message of Taste and Health. These included tips to get
children to eat better and enjoy a healthy diet, and stressed the
significance of eating together and children’s culinary education.
These publications included:
- "Balance and Moderation: Keys to a Quality Diet"
- "Taste, Health and Guilt-Free Holidays"
- "Resetting the American Table"
- "Taste Meets Health"
- "Taste, Health and the Social Meal" (a special issue of The Journal of Gastronomy)
AIWF’s Tenth Conference on Gastronomy, held in 1993 in Washington, DC,
highlighted the Smithsonian Institution’s Seeds of Change exhibit,
which examined the history and provenance of the world’s foods. An
extension of that exhibit was a vegetable garden that became a powerful
classroom tool, teaching subjects from math to geography, social
studies, science, and history. "Seeds of Change: Learning from the
Garden" is now a curriculum for grades 3-8 published by the
Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The curriculum lists
The AIWF as a major source of help: "The American Institute of Wine
& Food chapters across the country lead school children through an
exploration of the elements of taste from the farm to the table, and
exposes them to healthy attitudes about food."
Also in 1993, The
AIWF testified before the USDA on the importance of offering healthful
food choices that appeal to children in the school lunch program. The
dialog on Taste and Health continued. The NorCal chapter of The AIWF
sponsored a dinner with the American Dietetic Association where a San
Francisco chef, a nutritionist/cooking teacher, and a farmers’ market
director all talked about the challenges of accommodating both taste
and health concerns.
In 1993 the "Sensory Sleuths" program was
introduced, sponsored by the Washington State Apple Commission, taking
children on an exploration of their sense of taste. "Kids Cooking Week"
was a school-based campaign sponsored by The AIWF the same year. Many
children’s culinary activities were coming together at this time; the
many national programs and the priority on children’s education served
as a springboard for ideas the AIWF chapters implemented in many
The AIWF NorCal Chapter collaborated with The
AIWF and the Discovery Museum on a successful program called "Can You
Eat A Spring Roll in the Fall?" Many chapters threw harvest festivals
that included food programs for children. Chapters implemented Sensory
Sleuths and other children-focused tasting programs and worked with
classrooms in their area. In 1994, the Eleventh AIWF Conference on
Gastronomy was "Feeding our Future," held in Monterey, California.
Renowned chef Alice Waters was the keynote speaker, revealing details
of her Edible Schoolyard project. Participants shared and discovered
different models for educating children about food and visited the
verdant valleys and coastal farms.
The AIWF New York Chapter
conducted the first AIWF Days of Taste® program in the fall of 1995,
based on a program designed earlier by the Comité du Goût, a New York
City organization of French chefs. AIWF Chapter members Anna Herman,
Julia Jordan, Dave Wagner and chefs Michael Lomonaco and Waldy Malouf
collaborated with the Comité du Goût and the French Consulate to
produce a much expanded program that included the New York City
Greenmarkets, USDA Team Nutrition, and the New York City Elementary
Schools. M. Shanken Communications was the major sponsor.
first Days of Taste® included the Sensory Sleuths program, and the
curriculum still includes parts of it today. There’s also a field trip
to a green market, hands-on salad making, and a visit to a restaurant.
In addition, the AIWF’s association with the USDA led to the inclusion
of activities and information from the USDA Team Nutrition and the
USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid in the Days of Taste® curriculum.
AIWF New York Chapter championed the promotion of Days of Taste® to all
AIWF chapters around the country, as a program that was easily
implemented and particularly suited to creative interpretation within
the scope of the curriculum. Today, virtually all chapters of The AIWF
conduct their own versions of Days of Taste® each year. One year, the
AIWF Rhode Island Chapter conducted Days of Taste® in almost every
school in the state. Collectively, AIWF chapters reach thousands of
school kids each year through Days of Taste®, and The AIWF is proud to
call Days of Taste® its signature children’s educational program.