by Nick Rose, PCC Nutrition Educator
Q: “Mommy, where do apples come from?”
A: Teaching our children about local foods and the farms where those foods are grown or produced makes a lasting impact on their relationship with food. Kids are more likely to remember eating warm strawberries picked on a sunny day than to remember the five food groups they learned in the classroom.
Late summer is prime time for teaching kids where foods originate. We still have an abundance of locally grown berries but we also find local peaches, pears, potatoes, peppers, cherry tomatoes, sweet carrots and summer melons. And don’t forget that many local foods are available year-round, such as honey, milk, eggs, meat, seafood, emmer (a whole grain) and beans.
When I was a kid, I helped my granddad plant, weed and harvest the fruits of his home garden. I also helped shuck corn and beans before dinner, and I still today have vivid memories of these early experiences with food. These moments watching food grow in the field and eating food for dinner that I had picked earlier in the day stayed with me, while my memory of the “four food groups,” which I learned in the classroom, quickly faded away.
Making the most of seasonal foods often takes some creativity in the kitchen because you have a limited number of foods available; but the rewards — freshness, flavor, and the feeling that you are supporting Washington’s artisan food network — will make you grateful to have these foods on your plate. I often wonder if the reason we don’t eat more produce in this country is because the “fresh” produce (that was trucked an average of 1,500 miles from farm to supermarket) lacks the flavor found in freshly picked fruits and vegetables.
In today’s urban landscape, it is no longer necessary to have an intimate relationship with food. Unfortunately, some kids think food comes from the back of a grocery store instead of a farm. But this does not have to be the case. Opportunities to help kids realize the origin of their favorite foods are all around us and are becoming more and more popular.
Backyard gardening is an ideal place to start this education. Other ideas include: signing up for farm tours, visiting U-Picks and frequenting neighborhood farmers markets. This type of food education can help us teach our kids that tomatoes are grown on the vine, milk is collected from cows and honey is produced by bees. And it’s all done by hardworking members of our community. Who knows, this experience could motivate your child to become a beekeeper or a peach farmer and teach the next generation that food comes from farms.
Eating more local food is one of the most positive ways to “vote with your fork” for a more sustainable food system. Local food purchases support our regional economy, reduce food transportation costs, and support farmland preservation in our state.
- Explore PCC’s list of local, seasonal produce.
- PCC Farmland Trust regularly hosts farm tours, and other events.
About the Nutritionist
As a Nutrition Educator for PCC Natural Markets, Nick leads weekly “Walk, Talk, and Taste” classes, where he reveals the seasonal, sustainable, and delicious food choices found at PCC. Before coming to PCC, Nick taught nutrition courses at Bastyr University and his alma mater, Virginia Tech.