Fun & games for families at the farmer’s market
By Sandra Ann Harris – ECOlunchbox Founder
Lafayette, Calif. – I was stunned recently while watching a re-run of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution showing kids who were utterly unable to identify raw veggies. If our children don’t know what it’s called, how likely will they eat it?
Taking your family to a farmer’s market is a fun way for the whole family to learn the names of seasonal veggies, fruits, and even your local farmers!
Can your kid recognize a turnip? Can you distinguish broccoli from broccolini?
At ECOlunchbox, we’ve come up with a list of five fun ideas to help families enjoy an outing to their local farmer’s market while learning the names of seasonal veggies, fruits, and even our local farmers. (Yes, farmers have names, too!)
We believe that kids will eat better and have more fun at lunchtime (and snack time and dinnertime and breakfast…) if they get up-close and personal with their food chain while visiting their local farmer’s market.
Color it nutritious! At ECOlunchbox, we’ve found that kids love to be sent on color-finding missions at the farmer’s market. Assign one child orange and green, and another child yellow and red.
Kids remember colors. Encourage your children to appreciate the nutrient value of foods by teaching them that colors mean healthy foods, or, in kid-language, “grow foods.” The brightest colors are found in produce that is in season, fresh, and eaten raw or lightly steamed.
With your farmer’s market bounty, create a “rainbow lunch“—festively arrange a tray full of colorful foods cut into bite-sized servings. This can also be an excellent way of introducing new foods and getting variety into the family diet.
Dollars & Cents
Parents can involve their younger children in shopping by asking, “Can you put three zucchinis in the bag?” Or encourage their children to put fruits on a scale and follow up with, “Can you help me figure out how much these plums weigh?”
For older children, the dollars and cents of independently handling the bills and coins at your friendly local farmer’s market is a great way to build practical math skills.
Parents can give their children a budget, say $5, and ask the children to buy fruits and vegetables of their choice for their lunchbox. At ECOlunchbox, we’ve found that kids eat much better at lunchtime if they have a say in what’s packed in their lunchbox.
Kids love having the power to make choices about what they eat. What better place than the farmer’s market to give them that chance?
The Seasons of Foods
Strawberries in January? Kids will wonder why favorites like strawberries aren’t available year round at the farmer’s market.
Their questions will provide a great chance to talk with the farmers at your market about how food is grown and why it’s important to eat locally grown food that’s grown in season rather than import food from thousands of miles away.
A fun farmer’s market question for parents to ask is: “What kind of packaging does an apple come in?” “What about an orange? A melon? A zucchini?” Fruits and vegetables come with built-in, biodegradable packaging—their skin!
A good follow-up question is to ask a child to think about the packaging used in pre-packaged lunchbox foods, such as chip bags, cheese sticks, individually sized yogurts, and juice boxes. “What is the packaging made from?” (Answer: plastic.) “Is the packaging biodegradable?” (Answer: no.)
At ECOlunchbox, we believe it makes good sense to pick healthy foods for lunchtime—and use healthy packaging to pack these goodies to school or work. Plastic packaging often contains BPA (bisphenol-A) and other unhealthy chemicals. Scientists have linked toxins in plastics to health problems like cancer, diabetes, and early puberty.
We recently completed a litterless lunch waste study showing that families packing lunch with conventional throw-aways generate 4,320 pieces of trash annually and spend more than $400 on disposables like plastic baggies, utensils, pre-packaged snacks, juice boxes, and more.