Pure Good: Green Beetz

Green Beetz founder Dr. Anna Chapman teaches children how to make healthier food choices.
The topic of food justice is a core component of Green Beetz’s curriculum. Photo: Adobe Stock

By Adam Rosante

ADAM ROSANTE: For anyone who’s not familiar, what is Green Beetz?

Dr. Anna Chapman: Green Beetz is a plug-and-play curriculum for elementary and middle schoolers to learn about our complicated modern food system. The food landscape has changed so much in the past 100 years and has had some pretty bad effects on the health of individuals, communities and the Earth. The curriculum is currently being delivered in NYC public and charter schools in all five boroughs, usually during science class. Each lesson includes hands-on activities (whether art, science or cooking) and original media content (our lesson videos feature Miguel Cervantes, who plays Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton on Broadway!).

AR: What would someone who already knows about the organization be surprised to learn?

AC: When schools were closed during the pandemic, we focused our efforts on building out our online educational portal—Green Beetz Direct—so that our curriculum would be accessible to students wherever they were. We were thrilled to see teachers across the U.S. and even abroad register to teach the program. We are still primarily focused on NYC schools, but Green Beetz is now being taught in Tennessee, Washington state, California, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont and Florida. We’ve also had schools in Canada, South Korea, the U.K. and China register for our program online.

AR: You host an annual fundraiser in East Hampton. What have you learned about food insecurity on the East End?

AC: Although Green Beetz doesn’t directly provide food to those in need, the topic of “food justice” is a core component of our curriculum. It is shocking to learn that an estimated 1 in 4 adults on Long Island faces food insecurity, and that a significant number of those individuals who face food insecurity are children. Children who are hungry are more likely than their peers to experience behavioral issues, reduced ability to learn social skills and impaired cognitive learning—even permanent brain damage.

AR: What’s your biggest challenge right now?

AC: Green Beetz has great retention—over 90% of our teachers return year after year and are instrumental in helping to spread the word. Still, our biggest challenge since day one has been outreach to new schools. Surprisingly, in NYC, there is no centralized way to reach educators to make them aware of nonprofit resources like Green Beetz. Because of this, we’ve primarily relied on word-of-mouth and direct outreach to contact teachers and principals.

AR: Can you share a success story?

AC: In one Green Beetz elementary school, the fifth grade students decided to make a play about modern industrial farming. Then they had a citizens’ group take action against confined animal feedlots in their town and boycott their products, as well as make regulations and laws preventing that kind of treatment of livestock. We see again and again how Green Beetz inspires extension/research projects in classrooms, like students writing letters to cereal companies requesting they decrease sugar quantities and reduce packaging. That’s real student empowerment!

AR: Why is it important to use your life to be of service?

AC: We are such a long way from living in a society where we are taking care of our people and our planet. I believe that everybody feels better when they are able to contribute to the common good and that more people would do it (or do more of it!) if it were only made easier. Everyone truly has something to contribute, it’s just a matter of matching their skills and interests up with the right tasks.

AR: How can someone get involved with Green Beetz?

AC: We run a very lean operation—almost all of the money we are able to raise goes to programming in public schools. We have a number of people who volunteer their time and efforts in ways that reflect their talents, skill sets and interests (and have a great time in the process). Anyone interested in getting involved should contact us at office@greenbeetz.org. greenbeetz.org