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Welcome back to the Raising Healthy Families series – a fun and informative series designed to help you and your family thrive! Join us each Friday as we take a look at different ways to keep your family healthy and vibrant in a not-so-healthy world! I’m excited because this week it’s my turn to share about ways to teach your kids where their food comes from!
As you push your child in a cart down the aisles of the grocery store, they are bombarded by brightly colored packages and more choices then they would ever know what to do with. The produce department is a full rainbow of fruits and veggies from around the world, all looking like they’re at the peak of ripeness. And the cereal aisle is a rainbow full of sugar, artificial vitamins and minerals, and toxic dyes that are meant to attract your child’s attention.
While the grocery store may not make it very easy for us, there are lots of ways to teach our kids what real, seasonal, and local food actually is, as well as the best places to find it!
Easy Ways to Teach Kids Where Food Comes From
1. Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market
This is the time of year when farmer’s markets start to get into full swing. Bursting with local and seasonal vegetables and fruits, visiting the market on a regular basis throughout the summer is an easy way to begin helping your children understand the growing seasons.
Unlike at the grocery store, here in the Midwest we see strawberries for sale around the end of May and watch them be over by the end of June, local tomatoes aren’t ready until mid-June, and apples start at the end of August. When my kids ask for something that isn’t in season yet, or is already over, we talk about how foods grow for a specific time, and then they are done, so we need to enjoy them while they are in season!
2. Frequent U-Pick Farms for Local Produce
One our our family’s favorite summer traditions is going to local U-Pick farms to pick delicious fruits when they are in season and perfectly ripe. We regularly pick blueberries, cherries, peaches and apples and bring home enough to preserve by freezing or canning to use throughout the rest of the year.
When my kids were younger, they did more tasting than actual picking, but what is more delicious than fresh berries and fruits right off the bush or tree?
3. Grow Your Own Backyard Garden
I can’t think of a better way to teach kids about where food comes from, and how it is grown, then by growing your own food at home. The past few years we have had a small garden in raised beds around our house, and our kids love to help with everything from getting the beds ready, to planting seeds, to watering the plants and watching them grow, to harvesting and enjoying the fruits, or actually veggies, of our labor.
When you grow your own food, kids can see the life cycle of plants and seasons unfolding right before their eyes. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, you can grow a few things in containers, or small raised beds. And start small, with just a few family favorites, or let each of your children pick their favorite vegetable to grow.
4. Buy Directly from the Farmer
This past year we’ve started purchasing our meat, eggs, and some of our dairy, directly from a local farm that delivers to our area once a week. The kids are excited every week when we go to pick up our food from the farmer, or maybe that’s because the drop off is at their best friends’ house!
Either way, I like teaching them that not all food has to come from the grocery store, and we talk about why our family is choosing to buy more and more of our foods from the farmer and not from the store. In fact, during one of our conversations I was talking about how the cows at the farm are raised out on the pasture, and eat grass, and that they were “happy cows”, compared to the cows that make milk for the stores that have to stay crowded inside all day. They asked if that meant that those cows were “mad cows”, I thought it was an ironic, and pretty funny, comparison!
Photo by Michela Mongardi
5. Go Visit the Farm
This is one that our family is planning to do for the first time this summer. Because we started buying directly from the farmer in the late fall/winter we haven’t actually been out to the farm yet. But the kids are excited about it, and regularly ask, when we are on our way to pick up our food, when we will actually go to the farm and see the farmer at his farm.
I think there will be lots of benefits for our kids to seeing the farm where the animals are raised; seeing them out on pasture in their natural environment, seeing how the cows are milked, seeing how the different parts of the farm work together to create a healthy and sustainable environment for the animals and for the crops they also grow on the farm, and of course, seeing how much work it is for the farmers on a daily basis to grow and produce food for us to eat.
I want to raise my children with an understanding and appreciation that real food does not just appear on the grocery store shelves for us to buy and consume whatever, and whenever, we feel like it. I want them to learn about growing seasons, and foods that are grown locally, and those that are not. By sourcing and purchasing our food from places other than the grocery stores, we can teach our children what real, local and seasonal food is, and where it comes from!
How do you teach your kids about where their food comes from?
Would you like to read more?
- If you’re trying to get started with find real food in your area, here’s a great list of resources for finding real and local foods!
- Tips for finding and choosing a CSA.
- Not sure about Real Food yet? Read about how real food and green living are connected.
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