By Alan Viau
Fresh local market produce is filling the shelves. This is a great time of year to step out of the grocery store and teach kids where their food comes from.
Every week, like many families, we head to the supermarket and fill up our carts. I am amazed at the number of prepared, processed and canned food options. Waiting in line at the checkout counter, I marvel at the loads of these items that families pile into their grocery bags. When I see frozen fish sticks, I recall the story of inner city kids saying that fish comes in little rectangles. Are our shopping habits disconnecting us from our food’s origins?
Summertime gives us fabulous opportunities to reconnect with our food sources. It provides plenty of ways to teach our kids the food chain, our place in it and our responsibilities.
We are just at the end of strawberry season. Taking a trip to the pick-your-own strawberry fields is a great experience. Of course, the kids eat about as much as they pick – but that is part of the fun. They learn how the fruit grows and the work that goes into picking it.
Fresh produce is abundant at this time. A regular trip to a local farmers market is an excellent way to connect with the growing cycle. Every week, the kids can see what fruits and veggies are in season. Instead of hardball tomatoes from Chili, you can savor the flavours of fresh ones. There is nothing more exotic that biting into a full warm tomato just as you would an apple. When we’d buy yellow beans, we had to buy twice as much because my daughter would eat one pint on the drive back home.
The seasonal abundance is a way to introduce your family to the pleasures of home canning. Making your own tomato sauce or jams guarantees that they will remember the experience throughout the year. Every time you open a jar of jam, you appreciate the taste and your satisfaction in making it yourself. It is as if you’ve preserved summer. My kids still appreciate getting a jar of jam from Mum.
Going fishing makes you appreciate the source of your protein. Having to clean and fillet the fish links you into the food chain. Sitting in the boat gives you the time to talk about how fish eat other smaller life forms and how we consume them. And by the way, we are not the only ones wanting the fish. I was fishing with the kids in the James Bay region and not catching anything. Suddenly, a seal popped up 20 meters away from our boat. He’d eaten all the fish in that area.
The summer lets us step beyond the grocery store. We can get out and get closer to our fresh food sources. In so doing, we teach our kids important lessons about healthy eating and our place the cycle of life.