Sunday, January 2, 2011

Children Learn to Eat What they See

Contemplating the imminent demise of a heart-shaped, homegrown strawberry. Photo by Fiona Gilsenan.
George Ball, owner of Burpee seeds, has written a piece for the WSJ called 2011: The Year of the Vegetable. In it, he explains how children learn to love eating vegetables.

Liking vegetables is not a given: Every food other than breast milk is an acquired taste. But children can easily learn to enjoy eating their greens. It's simply a matter of education and familiarity—as in "family." Children will happily eat squash, artichoke or broccoli, to the delight of the parents who taught them to do so. As for fruits, children can gobble them up, but like vegetables, they must be at the ready, at least as available as all the junky alternatives.

The current childhood obesity crisis in the US (and close behind in Canada) is certainly due to the combination of poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. Ball talks about how to tackle the problem.

Yet no single institution is sufficient; fighting a problem of this sort requires a multifaceted effort. Churches could do much more to inspire families to grow vegetables. Public and private botanical and community gardening groups should augment efforts to lure neighbors into their educational demonstration gardens. Most families, whether in the city or suburbs, can plant at least a "starter garden"—involving pre-teen children in the planting, tending and harvesting.

We believe that every community garden should be a place of learning, for children and adults alike.

-Fiona Gilsenan

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