Everyone likes to think that they’re giving their kids the education they need to tackle the real world. But are we forgetting to educate them about one of the most important things?
It sustains us. Three times a day, we sit down and enjoy it in different forms. Food helps us to grow, keeps us healthy, and fuels us for the day. In reality, we take it for granted, and it’s time to make a change.
I remember a few years ago, I watched an episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and was floored. Children in the first grade had failed to identify a single vegetable that the celebrity chef had showed them. Could kids really be so ignorant about the food they eat every day?
At the same time, I remained a little smug. This video was shot in America, surely kids in Australia would do better.
But They Didn’t
Then, I saw a study released in partnership with Woolworths and Jaime Oliver himself that made me think again. The study took 1,600 Australian kids aged between six and 17 and tested them on their basic knowledge of fruit and veggies.
I’ll give you a hint: They did not do well.
Of the kids, an incredible 92% did not know that bananas grew on plants, 60% had no idea that herbs like mint grew in the ground, and 70% weren’t able to tell where sugar actually came from. They also weren’t that great at identifying produce. More than half of them didn’t know what leeks, nectarines or radishes were, and more than 40% also didn’t know what mangoes, apricots and zucchinis were.
“Friends of Ag”
Well, it was enough to make me worry, especially as my family and I have just become a Friend of Ag, a new initiative being run by AgForce Queensland to bridge the gap between people living in the country and in the city.
The aim of the program is to get people living in cities to become more aware of the immense positive impact that farmers have on their lives, and to educate the next generation of Australians to be more conscious about the system that feeds Australia every day.
So I wanted to give a few tips and ideas for parents worried that their children aren’t getting the ‘grassroots’ education they need about food and where it comes from. In the end, knowing where your food comes from means more educated Australian kids, with a better idea of how their food goes from paddock to plate.
1. Eat Variety
One of the best ways to get kids knowledgeable about the rainbow of fruits and vegetables that we have available in Australia is to eat that rainbow. Variety is the spice of life, and adding lots of different produce options into your diet is a great way to increase your child’s knowledge. Yes, we know kids are fussy, but they won’t know until they’ve tried, and something different might be just what they’re looking for.
2. Encourage Participation
Kids in the kitchen might seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but it’s actually a really great idea to improve their knowledge of food. The issue with many kids is they only see the final meal that comes out of the kitchen, not the individual produce that went into it. Get them involved in the kitchen by having them help get things from the fridge, add cut-up items to pots and even stir dinners. They’ll learn faster than you think.
3. Grow A Little, If You Can
If you’ve got a garden space, or even a few little pots, growing some produce is a fun way that kids can be educated and involved about the food that they eat. With a vegetable garden, they can see how produce grows, how to harvest it, and how to take care of it, giving them an idea of what farmers do every day. Even a few herbs grown in pots can provide insight into a world that’s very different from their own.
4. Don’t Shy Away
Parents often feel a little uncomfortable breaking it to children that the meat on their plate is the same meat that Peppa Pig is made from. However, avoiding this topic only makes it harder for them when the time comes for this news to be heard. Instead of avoiding it, embrace the idea and let your kids ask all the questions they want about their meat, how it’s raised and how it comes to be in their dinner. It’s the circle of life.
5. Take A Trip
For those families interested in taking it one step further, the best way to educate your kids about their food and where it comes from is to take a trip into the rural area. In almost all areas of Australia, there are farms and farming communities that are very different from the towns and cities we call home. For children, these communities offer an interesting look at a different life. There are a number of places your family can do — a farm stay, attend pick-your-own farms, or even take tours of dairies and farms of all sorts. It’s a fully immersive experience, and definitely worthwhile if you want your kids to be informed. Who knows, you might also learn something!