That box of sugary cereal sitting high on the grocery store shelf. Those bananas in the produce section, The gallon low-fat milk in the dairy case. As a family we hastily run thorough the supermarket grabbing these items, but do we ever think of how they got there? More importantly, do our children understand that these items don’t magically appear on grocery store shelves? They are grown, cultivated and raised to become our food.
Our children are now generations removed from the agrarian system and really might not have a grasp of how our food is produced. This thought occurred to me as I was attempting to overhaul our household diet a few years back. When every item in your pantry is surrounded by cardboard, how will our children ever learn what real food is?
It became an important endeavor for my children to learn what real food was. Not packaged Goldfish crackers, but real fish. Not Oreo cookies, but oranges. Not Eggo waffles but real eggs. So I embarked on a journey to educate myself and them. This entailed learned about not only how things grow but also about the circle of life.
They are still young and I didn’t want to get to graphic about it, but I felt it was important to have an appreciation for the idea that meat doesn’t come from the meat counter. Some animal gave its life to nourish us. Like Mustafa from the Lion King says, one day we will become the grass the animal eats and we will nourish it. We depend on each other.
To teach them some of these pretty heavy concepts, I looked to my local community for help. First I became part of a Community Supported Agriculture program. For a fee these programs give you a portion of what the farm produces. Sometimes it’s a little, sometimes the box is over flowing. It is all based on the harvest. So every other week, my children traveled with me to the farm to pick up the box and see what vegetables it contained. They also were able to tour the farm and speak with the farmers. You can see if your community has a CSA program at LocalHarvet.org
In the summer, I also try to take the kids to a local “U-Pick.” A U-pick is a farming area where you can pick as many items that will fits into a box or bucket for one price. I will have them pick cherry tomatoes and green peppers then they help me cook them for that night’s dinner. This way they not only had the fun of picking the vegetables they also got to see first-hand how they become a meal.
The toughest concept, but one I feel was the most important, is to have respect for our environment and the animals in it. Eating meat is not a bad thing, it is what is something natural. However, it is important to have an appreciation for the animal that gave its life for our food. So whenever possible, I try to buy grass fed and humanly raised meats and fish. Yes, it is more expensive and not always in the budget. However, if my children can learn to be good stewards of our planet, that we are all connect, and to respect other creatures. That lesson is priceless.