The same should be true for our food system. I am hard pressed to
believe that the parents who encourage their kids to treat others
nicely would approve of a system that intentionally adds chemicals and
toxins to its plants and animals, pollutes our air and water with waste
or one that treats animals with disrespect.
Enter the Slow Food Movement. Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. It encourages consumers to recognize the connection “between plate and planet.”
- Food should taste good.
- It should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment.
- Animals should be treated with dignity and respect.
- Food production shouldn’t hurt us or our health.
- The people who produce our food should receive fair compensation
for their work, and should not be exposed to toxins as they perform
I think that most of us are accustomed to “movements” being largely
led by adults. Politics is a timely example. However, the health of
our children is at stake, and we would be doing them a disservice if we
didn’t include them in the quest for better, slower food.
Our children learn their food values on a daily basis, not just from
us, but from the media and their peers as well. Corporate food giants
spend over 15 billion dollars a year on the 10,000 food ads most of our
children see. Almost all of these are for foods that high fat - high
sugar - high salt food with little or no nutrient value. Ann Cooper,
author of Lunch Lessons,
says that as a nation we’re getting fatter and sicker by the decade.
Over 2/3rd of us are overweight and fully 1/3 are obese - even more
disheartening is the fact that over 1/3 of our children are overweight
and the CDC says that of the children born in the year 2000 - 30 - 40%
will become diabetic in their lifetime. These dismal statistics are a
direct result of diet. Put another, even more dismal way, it is a
result of what we feed our children. What does this teach our children about the value of food?
And with many parents in dual-working families, time is of the
essence. One of every 4 meals in America is eaten at a fast food
restaurant; one in 4 is eaten in a car and one in 3 in front of a TV or
computer. It would be worth considering what these children are
learning about the value of food. Are we teaching them that it is
easier and cheaper to purchase this type of “food” than to prepare real
foods at home? While the immediate cost of fast food might seem low,
there are other costs to consider. What is the long term cost of CO2
emissions, pollution, obesity and diabetes that inevitably comes from
eating processed foods?
What happened to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?
Okay, enough doom and gloom…What can we do about it?
Let’s start with the Golden Rule. Yes, that again. It is important
that we make wise choices about the foods that we impose upon our kids
and teach them how to make good food choices for themselves. Let’s
teach our children about the staple foods that are eaten around the
world. Let’s encourage them to get their hands dirty, growing some of
their own foods each season, so they can take pride in the fruits of
their labor (so to speak). Oh, and of course we can’t forget to bring
our children into the kitchen to help prepare our meals. Not only are
kids helpful in the kitchen, but their participation motivates them to
eat healthier foods with gusto. (If you have a dog, this might be the
time to let him come into the kitchen and lick the floor!)
Slow Food is Good Food. What Can You and Your Kids Do?
Grow some of your own food. Start a garden, or if
space is tight, fill a few pots with herbs, radishes, peas or
tomatoes. Pick and enjoy food fresh from your garden - and if there is
any left, bring it into the kitchen and add it to your meal. Children
will appreciate the fresh and delicious flavors of foods picked at the
peak of freshness. Point out the benefits of eating foods right out of
the garden instead of purchasing items from the grocery story that have
traveled from other countries.
Buy locally produced foods…or eat some grown by
your neighbors! Shopping locally is an action with an impact. You are
making the choice to spend money on foods that are picked nearby and
brought to market, instead of those that travel great distances. When
you are at the grocery store with your kids, if the sources are
labeled, be sure to point out where they are coming from. My kids are
always surprised to learn that the produce at Whole Foods comes from so
many countries. We even give a little cheer when we find one that is
from a local source! Geography aside, fresher food contains more
nutrients and tastes better, anyway. So, why not?
Buy Organic when you can. Not only will this
reduce your exposure to fungicides, pesticides and chemical
fertilizers, but you will also indirectly let others know that you
don’t want farmers to be exposed to those things, either. It’s like
voting…but with your money instead of with a ballot.
Get your tush into the kitchen and COOK! Think
back to the foods from your childhood. Are there any recipes that have
been passed down through the generations? Give these a try, keeping in
mind that some ingredients might not be in season now, and if available
at all, probably come from thousands of miles away. Try to stick to
recipes that use foods that are fresh now. We keep some of our recipes
organized by season, so that when we need some inspiration in the
kitchen, we can just dive into the appropriate folder.
As we mentioned earlier, don’t forget to Call The Kids into the Kitchen!
Not only are you spending quality time together with your children in
the kitchen, but you are teaching them how to be involved in the food
choices that they make. They are learning that they can make choices
about the foods and ingredients that they consume. The kitchen is a
perfect platform from which to teach your children about ingredients,
both in your recipes and on packaged “foods.” If kids can’t pronounce
the name of an ingredient on a package, it is probably something that
was produced in a laboratory and should most likely be avoided. Be
creative with your food and let your kids express themselves through
their recipe choices and presentation.
Share. Use food to help others who might not be
able to cook for themselves. Double a recipe and deliver a home-cooked
meal to someone who is home-bound, sick, or who has just had a baby.
Just as we have said all along, it’s time to practice what we preach
- Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. Be kind to your
body. Be kind to our planet. We would have them do the same for us.
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