It takes a little creativity to get your children interested in caring about local foods if that isn’t the way you’ve raised them since birth. I certainly didn’t raise my boys with an appreciation of local foods; I didn’t start caring about it deeply until about a year and a half ago. I enjoyed going to the farmers market to get fresh produce and so did they — for the cookies and the cider donuts. But truly appreciating a locally grown tomato in July or understanding why it’s important for us to chose local meats from properly raised animals, that’s something new to my family.
I’ve learned in my ten years as a mom that changing my family’s habits is never easy, and making sweeping changes quickly never goes well. I’m easing my family into locavorism, and I’ve accepted that we will probably never be full-time locavores. Still, I want to raise my kids with an appreciation and understanding for the importance of buying local foods so they can understand how it affects the environment, their local economy, and their tastebuds.
Here are some ideas to get your kids involved with local foods without making it difficult.
- Take them to the farmers market and let them get a non-fruit or veggie treat like a cookie or other baked good. Then take them around to the produce tables and have them pick out one thing that they want you to take home for them to eat. Try to prepare it that day if you can while it’s still at its freshest.
- Do a taste comparison. Compare a store bought strawberry that’s been shipped from far away (even an organic one) with one that’s fresh and local. There are many other things you can compare – try green beans, honey, apples, or even apple juice pressed at a local orchard compared to the store bought juice.
- Plan plenty of pick your ow outings throughout the year – from strawberries to pumpkins there’s something fresh to pick each month from the end of May through October. Right now it’s getting to the end of strawberry picking season and we’re getting ready to move into cherries. NJ’s department of agriculture website has a chart that shows the likely harvest dates for the most common fruits and vegetables in the state. It also has an advanced search feature that lets you search by product and location.
- Give you child an edible plant to be responsible for. Make a little spot in the garden for your child to weed and water or plant one plant in a container and make it hers. Make sure it’s something she actually will want to eat.
- Get your kids involved with the cooking of the local foods you buy and grow. Last year, I did a post on A Little Greener Every Day on How to Get a Six Year Old to Eat Pesto. The conclusion in the post is that if a child plants the seeds for the basil and parsley, helps the plants to grow, picks the herbs, grates the cheese for the pesto AND gets to push the buttons on the food processor to make the pesto, he will most likely eat it even though it looks like something someone threw up.
- Take them to local harvest festivals – strawberry, cranberry, peach, apple – there’s even a dandelion festival in the spring. If you make it a family tradition to always attend a strawberry festival in early June, the kids will begin to understand the strawberries are the best in early June.
- Take pictures. Take pictures of your kids picking apples, watering their own broccoli plants, stirring up some salsa made with tomatoes from yoru garden. If you’re actually organized to get those pictures in an album, emphasize in the captions that these are local foods. Kids love to look through family albums and it will leave an impression on them.
I’m sure there are dozens of other activities you can do to instill in them a love of local foods. If you can think of any, please leave them in the comments.