Viva La Food Revolution: Kids Knowing What They Eat

Ryan gardening photo

Photo credit: Warren McLaren / Inov8

The other day I found our 19 month old son quietly parting back the leaves of the strawberry bushes, looking for fresh fruit. A day or two later, he came inside with a self-satisfied look on his face, and some juicy seeds stuck to the same place. According to his Mum, he'd just plucked three ripe organic cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. And munched them. It seems such a short time ago that he took his first breath of air. But now, barely a year and a half later, he knows where to find his own food.

Not so for all kids. in 2010, when chef Jamie Oliver presented his TED talk, he showed a clip from his Food Revolution TV series. In it some elementary/primary school aged kids thought tomatoes were potatoes, they identified an eggplant as a pear., and so on* But help may be at hand, as just the other week Jamie announced a partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA) to open five Food Revolution Kitchens, a mobile kitchen classroom, and new website to help kids and their families learn about their food.

ryan garden harvest photo

What could be more basic than food education? We humans are living organisms. How well we function (our outputs) is related, in large part, our inputs (food, drink, air, etc). We're very particular about the fuel we put in our vehicles to ensure their optimum performance, but seem far less concerned about the fuel we ask our bodies to ingest.

Developing an informed appreciation for the origins of what we eat, not only has the potential to improve our personal health, but also the crucial well being of our soils and water waterways.

As parents we're lucky to have a very curious child that loves to eat. He's fortunate that we have the space to grow our own food. It is heartwarming to see him make the connection with his own garden as the place where (some of) his food comes from. He knows what an apple is, when it falls from the tree. He'll happily chomp his way through a homegrown cucumber like it were an ice cream. And get all giddly excited when he sees me peeling the husk off a cob of corn.

Hopefully projects like those instigated by Jamie Oliver will fill the breach for families not lucky enough to have real food a few steps from their backdoor. (Read more about his mobile kitchen truck at Eater, who say it will include an expo kitchen, and 8 separate cooking stations designed for children.)

Yet even the smallest home can grow its own sprouts, have a balcony or window sill herb bed. Many vegetables will grow straight out out of a bag of organic fertiliser. Even small steps to connect children to the source of their food is likely to bear fruit (pardon the pun). If nothing more than partly answering their innate thirst for knowledge about the world around them. And there is little that compares with the miracle of watching your food grow from a tiny seed. Even for jaded adults.

An adjunct to the Food Revolution Kitchens initiatives might be books, such Ann Vileisis, Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back.

* if you reside outside the USA and want to see the clip with the kid's food identification mistakes, check out the 11 minute mark. Or if within the US you can see the excerpt here, when Daniel first noted it on TreeHugger one year ago.

Now, if only our son was as enthusiastic about our prolific harvest of zucchinis, as he is about our rather more limited crop of strawberries.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
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