There has been a lot of talk lately, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, about teaching kids where their food comes from. All I think a parent really needs is a taste for adventure and a willingness to throw a little caution to the winds. What better way to teach your kids about their food then to go out and experience it? Try out some of these ideas:
1. Go on a veggie safari
Kids love adventure and discovering new things. Why not take them on a safari of your local farmer’s market or grocery store produce section? This is a totally no-stress kind of shopping trip; each child gets a hand basket (even bring your own if you have a small, kid-sized one) and walk around the produce section. Show them, and talk about, all the different kinds of veggies and fruit, where they come from, and what people make with them.
Then they get to pick one to bring home and try. Don’t know what it is? Ask someone who works for the store. Often they will be happy to give you a taste, or offer advice about how best to eat it.
Our favorite place to do a food safari in Vancouver is Granville Island public market, where Jake and I still love to wander to look at all the seafood, gourmet meats and cheese, and different kinds of breads.
2. Read, read, read
There are lots of fun kid’s books out there about food, such as Eating the Alphabet and Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert or Beaver the Gardener, by Lars Klinting. Incorporated with a trip to the grocery store, they might inspire kids to see how many veggies they can identify.
A good idea is to read them before you head out on a veggie safari, and make a game of how many fruits or veggies you can identify.
3. Visit Your Local Farms, or even the not so local ones.
A farm isn’t all about veggies. Find out who the food producers are in your community and give them a call! Over the years Jake and I have visited cranberry, pumpkin, honeybee, emu/ostrich, oyster farms as well as apple, pistachio, and almond orchards. We were always given a warm reception and they were thrilled to show us around their operation. In return, we’d buy something small to take home and try.
Even if they normally don’t give tours, explain that your kids are interested in seeing where the food comes from and many just can’t resist. When you are on vacation, scope out some of the local farms as well. Some of our best memories are visiting farms and food producers in areas far from home.
4. Get to Know a New Culture
Don’t ever assume that your kids will never try something from a different culture-when Jake was six, I bought sushi for myself for lunch and didn’t think he’d like it. He begged a piece from me, and then cleaned my plate!
With the same sense of adventure that took you to the produce department, take the kids to a cultural festival or area of town that serves ethnic food and let them try a bit. One of our favorite memories is going to the Chinese New Year celebrations in Vancouver and then dining on BBQed duck and rice in a tiny restaurant.
5. Grow Your Own
I am no gardener, but just about anyone can grow baby carrots or peas in a pot on your porch. Kids who grow their own just might be more into eating it, and it’s so much fun for them to see it go from seed to plant, to right on their plate.
If you have the resources or time, find a community garden in your area and offer to pitch in. The results are deliciously rewarding!