When thinking about my own path as a conscious eater, I always think about my childhood. While I ate junk food like any other kid attracted (and addicted) to sweets, my family never kept the typical American snacks lying around. If my brother and I wanted a “snack” – a meal was usually made. An omelette with some Israeli salad, a sandwich- something of substance. Going to my friends’ houses was always a treat- rice krispy treats! doritos! All the junk we didn’t have at home.
Today I’m so pleased to have Rivki, from Life in the Married Lane, guest posting about her farmer’s market adventures with her three young children. She gives us some insight and inspiration as to how families can begin the process of healthy eating for the next generation from a young age. Enjoy!
Teaching My Children About Healthy Eating
It didn’t seem like a likely place for a lesson in fresh food. Pulling past the tall chain-link fence dotted by determined weeds, we turned into the gray and gravelly parking lot in a vast space adjacent to the horse racing tracks. Surrounding us were the sounds and sights of hard urban living, with some very stalwart trees sticking it out amid the concrete. It wasn’t pretty, but here in the grit of the city is a chance for urban dwellers to eat local.
Like an oasis, six or seven tents glimmered in the sun, providing shade for the farmers and their produce. I unbuckled my kids from their carseats and strapped the baby into the stroller, my bags waving from the handlebars. We made our way to the center tent, where I would be able to purchase tokens for the vendors (I had forgotten to get cash before heading to the market). The women at the table/desk was fresh-faced and friendly. Sitting next to her was her young daughter, munching on a wholesome-looking sandwich.
As I signed the receipt, my boys ran around one pole of the tent, wildly giggling as they circled. After somewhat reigning them in, I gave my oldest the responsibility of holding onto the round wooden tokens, securing his role in this chain of food production and consumption.
Normally, I avoid shopping with all three of my kids like the plague. It’s not an easy task, and usually I end up forgetting some crucial item on my list because I’m more focused on refereeing or making sure no one’s running amok through the store. It’s a high-stress scenario.
But this farmer’s market is a different story. Here, there is space. Here, they can meet the people who actually grow the food. They can see produce that isn’t perfect and waxy, that is real and varied and fresh.
I want my children to understand that food comes from somewhere other than refrigerated trucks (though at their young ages, refrigerated trucks sound pretty awesome). I want them to remember the farmer who generously let them try plums for the first time, to recall the stickiness of the juice as it ran down their chins onto their shirts.
Next year, G-d willing, we’ll have a garden, like our neighbors. Then my kids will be able to stick their hands in the dirt and watch as the cucumbers expand and the zucchini proliferate. I’m hoping that we’ll even get chickens, and fresh eggs will be the norm, not a luxury.
Right now, though, we have the market, and in Baltimore, there seem like a lot of choices in this area. Though the city may be harsh and grey, it just takes a short drive to find oneself surrounded by green pastures, lined with fences and dotted with grazing horses. One of the farms is only about nine miles from the race tracks (sixteen if you’re measuring by the roads). Food is close here.
Besides the market, there are two farms I know of that cater to families who want to pick their own produce. We went peach picking last summer, as part of a birthday party (fabulous idea). The boys carried their little bags and we held them high so they could pick the perfect peach. We showed them how many peaches on the ground were too ripe, and became mushy and not yummy to eat. After filling our bags, we headed to watch the animals and to look at the tractors (a big draw for my boys).
Whenever my children ask for fruit as a snack, I feel like I’m making progress in the area of food choices. I know that once they’re in school, they will be facing a barrage of unhealthy choices, and all the brightly packaged food will be tantalizing and exotic. So while I have the chance, I’m using every opportunity to show them how delicious real food is, how it’s more than plasticy coloring (I’m thinking of you, fruit roll-ups) and excessive sugar (I’m thinking of, well, any processed sweet treat ever).
I expect my children to experiment with unhealthy food, but I’m hoping to lay the foundation for them to return to good food choices. The opportunities are there, we just have to take them.
Rivki Silver is a mother, wife, musician and writer. She blogs at Life in the Married Lane, where she writes about motherhood, religion, music and relationships. She also enjoys writing and performing music, and is surprised yet pleased to actually be using her music performance degree. Her parents are happy about that, too. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and three small children.