Today’s guest post comes from Amber of Strocel.com.
I live in suburban Vancouver my with husband and our kids – 5-year-old Hannah and 2-year-old Jacob. In my working life, I was an electrical engineer and I wrote computer programs. My husband works in television, making sure that the graphics on the local news look good. Most of our neighbors live similar lives, working in middle-class jobs that involve cubicles. If aliens were to observe our neighborhood they might deduce that food comes from the grocery store and/or the local fast food outlet. And before that, it comes from a big refrigerated truck.
It’s important to me that my children don’t think that food comes from the store. I mean, OK, a lot of my family’s food does come from the store in the end. But not in the beginning. There is a back story to every bite we take, and that back story matters. It impacts our health, the health of the people and animals involved in food production, and the health of the planet. I want my kids to know the back story, so that they can make informed choices.
Given the near-total lack of anything resembling agriculture in my community, how do I help my kids to get a window into food production? I do a few things:
1. We have a vegetable garden. It’s not the world’s most impressive vegetable garden, not by a long shot. But we can pick our own peas and carrots and tomatoes and blueberries. We watch the miraculous transformation from small seed to exuberant squash plant. And we taste the amazing flavors in fresh-picked produce.
2. We visit our local farmer’s market. Once a week nearby farmers truck into our suburban enclave with their produce. I take my children and they help me pick out our fruits and veggies and seafood and meat and cheese. We try new foods that we have never even seen before, like garlic scapes and blue hubbard squash. We talk to the people who grew or made the things they’re selling, and learn a little bit in the process.
3. We pick wild berries. Not all food comes from a farm – some of it grows in our local park and along the roadside. Salmonberries, huckleberries and blackberries are our favorites. I have taught my kids to never eat any berries that I don’t give them, of course. But they’re learning that nature’s bounty is broader than anything a grocery store can conceive of.
4. We visit farms. Whenever we get the chance, we visit farms to see how they work first-hand. We meet the cows who make our milk and the chickens who lay our eggs. We see the fields where our grain is grown. Farms are fun places for kids, especially my suburban kids who find them especially novel. And, honestly, they’re pretty fun places for me, too.
5. We cook together. If you’re buying fresh, local produce, you need to know what to do with it. Cooking with kids isn’t always fun, I’ll admit it. But knowing how to cook from scratch is an important life skill, and so I’m willing to put up with a little inconvenience to equip my kids for the future. And even when they’re not ‘helping’ me make dinner, they’re usually in the kitchen watching, so I hope they’re seeing my example.
Like a lot of children, my kids ask me for all kinds of foods I don’t want to buy. Yogurt in tiny plastic tubs with licensed characters waving from the label. ‘Fruit’ snacks and pre-packaged pudding and cereal with marshmallows. It’s not always apparent to me that they understand the food lessons I’m trying to teach. But I have faith that if I keep at it, it will sink in. They will grow old enough to understand, and when they make choices for themselves they’ll consider the impact of the food they eat. At least, I really hope so.
Amber is an engineer-turned-at home mom to 5-year-old Hannah and 2-year-old Jacob. She lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband Jon, the kids and her ill-tempered cat. In her free time she gardens, crafts, and dreams about the life she will have when she grows up.You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures, in food and beyond, on her blog at Strocel.com.