Today, many children only experience food coming from a grocery store. Reconnecting our children to food's origins can build their conceptual understanding of food sources, while also providing an opportunity to form healthy eating habits and learn about the environmental implications of growing organically or transporting food long distances.
Here are some ideas to help kids understand where the food they eat comes from:
Plant your own vegetable garden. A vegetable or edible garden can be as small or large as you would like or your space accommodates. Even having one cherry tomato plant in a container on your patio gives your child a chance to experience the growing and harvesting cycle of local foods.
Consider eating one "seasonal" meal each week. This would mean only using fruits and vegetables that are in season, not grown in different climates and shipped from far away. If you shop at a local veggie stand or join a CSA, this is easy, because they only carry seasonal items. Older children might enjoy making a chart of when their favorite fruits and vegetables are available locally and can look forward to them.
Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. Many farms now offer locally grown, often organic, foods by subscription. A family purchases a "share" of a local farm and receives a bag, box or credit towards fresh fruits and veggies that they pick up each week.
Visit local farms with your children. They will get to see where the actual food is grown, and observe up close unpackaged foods and some vegetables they are unfamiliar with. They can even get to talk to the farmer. You can make a visit to the farm even more interesting by using a few of the following ideas:
Encourage conversations between your child and the farmer about the available fruits and vegetables. Older children can keep a journal.
Questions to ask:
- What kind of tomato/lettuce/etc. is this?
- When was this vegetable/fruit picked?
What produce will you have next week?
Engage young children in using their senses:
- What does the vegetable/fruit feel like? Is it bumpy or smooth? Is it hard or soft?
- What does the vegetable/fruit look like? What color is it? What shape?
- What does the vegetable/fruit sound like when you tap it? Is it hollow? Does it sound like a drum?
- What does the vegetable/fruit smell like? Does it have a strong smell or no smell?
What does the vegetable/fruit taste like? Do you think it will be juicy or dry? Sweet or salty? Let's go home and give it a taste.
Create a Veggie Stand “Scavenger Hunt”:
- Create a grocery list before going to the farm.
- Have your child help locate the items on the list.
- Use check marks or stickers to show the item as complete.
Consider a "extra" square for an item that the child can pick.
Reinforce the food education at home:
Have children compare produce from the grocery store with produce from the farmers market. Do they look the same? Feel the same? Smell the same? Taste the same? What are their favorite fruits and vegetables? Why?
Kids love having their say. Involving them in the purchasing process and food prep will get them excited to eat fresh vegetables and healthy meals!