Alternatives to a School Field Trip to In-and-Out Burger

You may recall that my son’s school took an official school field trip to In-and-Out Burger as part of their lessons on food distribution chains and economics. I sent a polite but pointed email to the school principal explaining why we were opting-out of that trip. The principal sent me an appropriately polite response to my email and invited our suggestions of alternatives. My wife Lisa sent the principal this email describing what she did with Jacob instead of the In-and-Out Burger field trip:

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I just wanted to follow up with you about alternatives to the In-N-Out field trip. Since both the field trip & our decision to pull Jacob was kind of last minute, I didn’t have much time to research alternatives. I ended up taking Jacob out for breakfast at Hobee’s & while there, discussing the cost of his entree & what went into that. We discussed the expenses restaurants incur (cooks, servers, rent, utilities, etc.); we also touched on the differences between “fast food” restaurants & other types of restaurants as well as regular vs. organic. Then we made notes about the ingredients used in his entree. From there we went over to Trader Joe’s and priced out those ingredients (going through the store with a notepad & pen, noting prices, quantities & serving sizes – we didn’t actually purchase anything). Then, we came home and calculated the total price, and then did a lot of division to calculate the price of one serving. (BTW, the $8.50 Florentine Scramble at Hobee’s can be made at home for $2.83, and that’s with about 50% organic ingredients to boot! :-))

The same morning Jacob’s class went to In-N-Out, our daughter’s class went to Hidden Villa Farm where they saw how crops are raised, eggs are harvested, goats milked & pigs born. I thought that was a nice view into “where food comes from,” and since HV also sells commercially, they can also discuss/show how they choose what to produce, how they package, transport, market & price it, etc.

If I’d had more time, I would have looked into possible “behind the scenes” tours from places like Whole Foods Market, the local Farmers Markets, Trader Joe’s and other local farms. If you would like me to research these sorts of options further, please let me know.

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Lisa’s alternative excursion made quite an impression on Jacob. He became especially interested in organic foods, but the cost accounting also seems to have made an impact. Lisa also told me that several people at Hobee’s and Trader Joe’s overheard her talking to Jacob and gave her unsolicited compliments for her efforts.

In terms of alternatives, I think a visit to Hobee’s is a little better educationally than a visit to In-and-Out Burger, but I think both of them are inferior to a trip to where students could get multiple vendor perspectives, such as a farmer’s market. I think it would be really neat to hear different farmers at a farmer’s market explain why they think their product is superior to their competition and why it’s financially advantageous for farmers to sell their product via a farmer’s market as opposed to other distribution options. My guess is that the students would never look at Safeway’s the same after hearing that.

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