Should I be proud that my kids know something about food?

2010 April 1
by Steven R Jones

mother-grocery-storeIt sounds silly to sing my childrens’ praises for knowing a thing or two about healthy eating. Leaving formal education aside for the moment, I think its fair to expect parents to take on the responsibility for helping their kids learn about life lessons including financial responsibility, running a household, exercise, hygiene, and otherwise taking care of their bodies. And most parents seem to do a decent job of that for each new generation.

But recently, it has become evident that many kids are failing to get proper education about food – at home or at school. Of course parents have more to contend with these days with massive marketing for fast food, processed food and the like. But I am constantly amazed at how little knowledge is being passed on about where food actually comes from, and even less about what is actually in their meals. It is shocking that most kids can’t identify basic ingredients by sight while walking through the grocery store. For an extreme, if not hyperbolical, example see Jamie Oliver’s TV show about starting a food revolution in “unhealthy” West Virginia.

Even if today’s busy schedules leave little time for cooking from-scratch meals, there is no excuse for putting your faith in fancy food packages and trusting the mega-brands with your family’s long-term health.

Our household is perhaps more attuned to these issues and have been trying to eat healthy for the last 20 years. We have always thought it was important for children to be able to know their fruits and vegetables – like they learn their alphabet or recognize animals at the zoo. And as they get older, we are teaching them how to cook these foods too (not microwave – duh). Unfortunately, like all parents in this country, we now also have to teach them about what not to eat, how to read labels to learn what ingredients are not supposed to be there, and most importantly how and why our food system has changed for the worse in the last 40 years.

So am I proud that my 8 year old puts frozen waffles back in the freezer case when he sees high-fructose corn syrup on the box?  I guess but it’s a shameful kind of pride.  I no longer feel guilty about driving the kids right past fast food “restaurants” and privately rejoice when they choose Indian buffets for lunch or can navigate an Asian market. I know they may not yet fully appreciate the farmer’s market and could care less right now about the value of seasonal foods. But they have already latched onto “organic” if only because it means there is less chance that bad stuff is in there. And they know that most food that is sold in pretty boxes is suspect. And they look forward to picking strawberries right on the farm in the weeks ahead.

Here’s hoping we haven’t turned our kids into “weirdos” who have yet another battle to fight with their peers. Sigh.

One Response leave one →
  1. 2010 April 13
    Pete permalink

    I would never feel guilty about “robbing” your kids of the opportunity to eat garbage fast food. Just about the only fast food I will ever eat is Subway, and even that is not my preference. I love to cook at home or have ethnic food at restaurants. My kids will also know the joys of Thai and Indian food. It will be a minimum requirement for them to be able to navigate an Asian market (I can, and will teach them.) While I am not a vegetarian, I value eating a wide variety of foods and avoiding “crap” if at all possible. Hopefully my (future) offspring will catch on as well as yours have!

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