Nourishing minds: The role of food education in second language classrooms

Posted on May 27, 2024

Eating does more than just sustain and nourish. It introduces us to a whole new world of learning. One of the most effective ways to enhance the student experience in a second language classroom is with the integration of food education.

Benefits of food education

Looking at language learning through the lens of food education, we discover a host of power allies. Not only can students expand their vocabulary beyond the textbook, but they can also engage multiple senses in a hands-on way. Exploring diverse foods can give students the chance to foster a deeper connection with the language.

Incorporating food education into your classroom offers other important advantages, as well. It fosters the development of meaningful relationships, acknowledges cultural diversity, and promotes inclusivity, ensuring that everyone feels valued and involved.

Connections between food and our mental state

We also must consider how food affects the mind. There is a connection between what we eat and how we focus, learn, and behave.

Part of food education, therefore, is helping students understand how certain foods make them feel. For example, helping a student recognize when they are dehydrated can also help them identify what works for them when they are having trouble focusing. And of course, some foods are more nutritious than others. As a part of our food lesson, we can integrate nutrient-dense foods, such as fatty fish, blueberries, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, which can help boost focus and prepare students to learn another language.

Ways to introduce food education

If you’re not a food teacher, the idea of integrating food into the second language classroom may seem daunting. Here are some low-prep food ideas to get you started with food education.

  • Try doing a “Passport to the World” project, where students each choose a family recipe to bring to school, in potluck fashion. This encourages cultural diversity, while allowing students to build new vocabulary. Have students identify any focus-building foods within the dishes brought to school.
  • Alternatively, if you want to present certain foods to your students, you can create a classroom restaurant. Students work on socializing and ordering food in another language. This is great for relationship building.
  • For something more independent, students could pick a dish and conduct research about where the dish comes from, what ingredients it includes and why they chose that dish. Students can then either share a copy of the recipe with the class or make the recipe at home and bring it to school for classmates to taste-test.


No matter how you look at it, students must eat. Food education therefore has a natural appeal and offers numerous advantages. It helps students build the skills needed in the real world. It connects seamlessly with other subjects such as math, science and social studies. And when we see how food, mood, and language learning are linked, we discover a secret to help us focus better. With every new recipe, our brains become more attentive and ready to grasp important concepts.

What is one high-focus food that you could integrate into your classroom this week?


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Lisa Trout

Lisa Trout

Lisa Trout

Raised by a Francophone mother, an Anglophone father, and six older siblings in Saskatchewan, Lisa Trout was immersed in a rich bilingual environment. She is currently a French immersion middle school teacher, certified holistic health coach, author, and mom of two. As a master’s student in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, she is focused on the intersection of community engagement, mental health and food education. She hopes to continue building holistic educational experiences in the classroom in the future.


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