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The Great Big Munch: Exploring Cultural Roots Through Bananas

By: Asma Musa, MPH Nutrition and Dietetics Candidate at the University of Toronto

Photo credit: Asma Musa, MPH Nutrition and Dietetics Candidate at the University of Toronto

As a Somali-Canadian, my cultural roots have always played a significant role in shaping my identity and experiences, especially regarding food. Inspired by the "Connection through Circles” activity, which focused on First Nations, Metis, and Inuit food systems, I set out to create an inclusive and culturally rich activity known as the Great Big Munch, that emphasizes the importance of embracing diverse traditions and cultural foods.  It aims to support healthy food in the classrooms by building on the Great Big Crunch’s advocacy for a national school food program.

Growing up in a Somali household in Canada, my childhood memories are infused with the aroma of locally grown Ontario produce. However, one fruit, in particular, held a special place in our home—the banana. In Somali cuisine, bananas are a staple and are enjoyed in various ways, even in savory dishes, which might seem unconventional to those unfamiliar with the culture. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are often prepared by cooking or ripening them to achieve a softer texture, a practice I observed throughout my upbringing. While apples were also part of our diet, I discovered that they aren't as prevalent in Somalia.

The Great Big Munch was conceived with the goal of fostering inclusivity and celebrating cultures and countries where apples or other crunchy fruits and vegetables may not be as commonly grown or consumed. This two-part activity is designed to create a sense of comfort and recognition for individuals like me, who grew up with certain foods that hold cultural significance.

The first part of the Great Big Munch, titled "Bananavaganza: All about Bananas," encourages participants to explore bananas at different ripeness stages using their five senses. This engaging exercise allows individuals to appreciate the versatility of bananas and how their taste, smell, texture, sight, and sound change as they ripen. It's an opportunity for everyone to connect with a fruit that transcends cultural boundaries and is enjoyed worldwide.

The second part, "Where in the World," takes participants on a global journey to explore bananas in various cultural contexts. This segment highlights the diverse varieties of bananas grown worldwide and delves into how they are integrated into global cuisines. By showcasing the cultural significance of bananas in different regions, the activity promotes cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

The Great Big Munch is more than just a fun and educational activity; it's a celebration of diversity and a tribute to the cultural richness that different fruits bring to our tables. Bananas, in particular, serve as a symbol of universal appeal, connecting people from various backgrounds through a shared love for this versatile fruit.

In a world that often emphasizes our differences, the Great Big Munch encourages a sense of unity and appreciation for the cultural tapestry that makes each of us unique. It's a small yet impactful step towards fostering inclusivity and understanding in our communities, one banana at a time. The Great Big Crunch and the Great Big Munch reminds us of how important healthy eating at school is and why it's time to #NourishKidsNow with a Canada-wide national school food program.



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