Food for Thought
Posted 12/04/2016 10:05

Food for Thought

Shortly before the spring break, students in PYP6 had the opportunity to reflect on a subject fundamental to all life: Food. The Unit of Inquiry “Fasting and Feasting” allows young people to explore the importance and impact of food from multiple perspectives – its cultural significance around the world, its contribution to our physical growth, and the issues surrounding its distribution at both local and global levels.

A School in West Africa

Woven into this unit of study was the chance for PYP6 students to compare and contrast their lives with those of children at a school in Burkina Faso. For many years now, ISB has been partnering the local Aesch Gemeinde in an initiative which supports children attending schools in this region of West Africa. Like Switzerland, Burkina Faso is a landlocked country filled with bright and energetic young people with great potential; however, the contrasts between the lives of children there and children here were brought to light vividly in a presentation given to ISB students in early March by a visiting representative of the Gemeinde. In it, PYP6 students were shown photographs of life at Yarse Elementary School and the local community and learnt about the daily challenges faced by those who study and work there.

For a Handful of Rappen

ISB students were clearly astonished to learn that a nutritious lunchtime meal per student at Yarse School cost just the equivalent of CHF 0.14. Discussing this in the classroom, they could not imagine a single item that they could purchase for this seemingly tiny amount of money – not even half a gummi bear! They also discovered that lunch may be the only substantial meal those children receive each day, and that some of it might additionally be shared with their families at home. In her reflection, student Belle wrote, “This unit was absolutely an unforgettable memory. I felt bad for the children of Yarse School for they only eat one meal per day.” Céléna reflected, “We should be happy for what we have.”


Central to the celebrations of all cultures, faiths and communities, in all parts of the world, is food. As part of the “feast” aspect of their unit of inquiry, students brought from home typical dishes representing their country and culture. “Taste of the World” gave students a chance to sample dishes as diverse as pancakes and pakora, fava beans and Fasnachtsküchli. On taking part in the feast, Alma declared: “I felt lucky because I had food to eat and because everything I tasted was delicious!”

…and Fast

The antithesis to this experience was the sponsored fast, which occurred shortly before the “Taste of the World” – an event in which students committed to abstain from eating and drinking for half a day, beginning after the evening meal and extending until lunchtime of the following day. Although a few students had had previous experience of fasting, for the majority this was undoubtedly a new challenge, and one that allowed them to consider the effects on their mind and body of this voluntary abstention from food. Importantly, it also offered them opportunities to think empathetically: What must it be like to be regularly hungry? Would I always find it harder to concentrate in lessons? What if I had no lunch to look forward to after the 12-hour fast? As Justin noted, “I would not like to do the fast again, but it gave me a new appreciation for what I thought was everyday life.”


As a result of the PYP6 fast, students raised over CHF 2000 for Yarse School. This money will be used by the Aesch Gemeinde to ensure the continued provision of regular lunchtime meals and, also, to develop amenities and other forms of support within the school locality.

Charlotte Brontë once remarked: “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” Foods, funds, knowledge and experiences: through sharing these, young people at ISB are developing a greater awareness of how other people live, and a better understanding of how their actions may impact on the lives of others. This, surely, is a recipe for happiness.