Money doesn't grow on trees, and apples do

Teaching our kids about  real food will go a long way towards making them happier and healthier

I’m a great believer in the need to teach children to value the source of our food, and also to recognize where real food comes from. It's a kind of kitchen table teaching that my kids have grown up with.  I learned last fall that it's sinking in when my 11 year old son Quincy arrived home with a sweater full of truly amazing apples...big, juicy, perfectly tart. They were from a tree on the edge of a field where he plays. Ignored for decades, the tree was still bearing fruit and feeding the local deer.

We gather lots of “found” fruit – wild raspberries, blackberries, apples – near our camp so Quincy recognizes a good thing when he sees it. Every day for a week he brought a bagful of these apples home and I made apple sauce, froze sliced apples and I made him a special galette.
Quincy is so connected with the earth and food that you might not guess he's a suburban kid. Although you shouldn't need to grow up in the country to learn the simple fact that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store.

Helping kids understand that food has its beginning in the ground (or the ocean) and that whole food – an apple right off the tree, a fresh fillet of haddock that isn’t breaded and frozen -- can be delicious and satisfying, just might help ignite a little curiosity in whole food and inspire them to choose processed packaged food less often. Or better yet, it might spur them to ask their parents why so many of their meals come in a box or through the window of their car.

Kids are innately curious about food in its natural state and will delight in picking apples and pulling carrots. They may become bored in 10 minutes but it’s that initial state of wonder that fuels my optimism.  

Give kids whole food and they’ll eat it. Give them a choice between processed, packaged foods and whole foods then they’ll likely choose the packaged stuff. So why give them the choice? One of our jobs as parents is to make choices for our kids, until they can show they’re ready to make good decisions on their own. And like many other life lessons (money management, good manners), parents need to lead by example. Now, just how do we teach the parents?

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