American Vegetable Grower magazine has a cover story this month on how we can increase kids' consumption of fruits and vegetables. It was also posted at GrowingProduce.com. Here's a link. I'm looking for ideas to help boost produce consumption, which would not only help vegetable sales, it would go a long way to improving the health of our young people. Obesity has become a huge problem. Any and all ideas are welcome.
Get corporate foods out of the local schools and you will see this change. In the Madison, WI area school children have access to affordable fruits and veggies at school. Some sourced locally.
It starts are home. If parents will choose the $1.99 jumbo bag of chips vs the $4.99 container of strawberries, blueberries, carrots, broccoli, etc. then the problem will only get worse. Local food producers can help with this. If kids are allowed to actually GO to a farm and PICK some of what they will eat, then they at least have a CONNECTION to the foods they are eating.
I am a small grower so my family is a little biased. My kids are aged 11, 10, 9, 4, 2, 1 and 2 months. The four oldest helped plant, transplant, weed, fertilize and pick over 80 different crops last year. My 4, 2 and 1 (closer to 16 months) whine at the store (during winter) when we go through the produce department for strawberries, blueberries, etc. We can go down the candy aisle and they could care less.
If kids eat healthy from the beginning they will always choose to eat that way. Being in Wisconsin we can still get out milk in returnable glass bottles, which we do (organic). We ran out the other day and my wife asked me to get a gallon at the quick store. They had organic, but in the regular 1 gallon plastic jug. The following day my 2 year old son opened the fridge and whined there was no milk, even though the gallon was staring him in the face. He almost never sees milk in plastic so he assumed no glass bottle, means no milk.
My point is that children learn very early in life what they like. It is not so much based on taste as it is on marketing. To get our children to consume more healthy fruits and veggies (and there is nothing wrong with chips either, in moderation) we need to target PARENTS with both taste and health benefits. If they have the money to purchase, they will. If they do not, then I think we need to petition our STATE (not federal) legislators to mandate than food assistance dollars must have some of the allotment set aside for fresh fruits and veggies. Let the parents decide WHICH fruits and veggies, but they must be FRESH fruits and veggies.
Just my observations though.
Last year my 1 year old was barely crawling. She crawled out to the strawberry patch where we were picking and choose to start munching on the berries we had picked. She has never stopped and to this day will prefer a strawberry over a cookie when both are placed in front of her. (We purchase around 8-10lbs of strawberries per week for our family during the off season)
I belive the Choose MY Plate.gov should be put out there more. It clearly shows 1/2 of the food you consume in a day should be fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are colorful, flavorful and good for you. Children are drawn tho the colors. They and their family should be encoraged to eat a wide variety of colorful local fresh fruits and vegetables.
You both make really good points. Jean, I too think MyPlate should get more attention. It's such a simple, but powerful, message about what foods a person's diet should be based.
And Matt, that story about your 1-year-old choosing strawberries over cookies really hit home. When my son was about five and wanted a snack, just as an experiment, I asked him if he wanted a Pluot - a super-sweet interspecific plum - or a cookie. To his dad's delight, he immediately chose the fruit. Still does, and maybe that's why he's now 6' 2" and not an ounce of fat on him!
1. Install salad bars in school cafeterias with a regular rotation of fresh fruits & veggies
2. Develop a school garden where students grow veggies, then have a salad party when the harvest comes in. Extra produce can be gleaned for student families or to donate to food pantries
3. Survey students with a variety of salad recipes to determine which ones they prefer, then put a different salad on the menu as a choice each day in the cafeteria--e.g. Tuesday is Taco Salad day.
4. Have a bowl of fresh fruit available at the cafeteria check out for students to grab at the last minute.
5. At home, limit access to junk foods and make fruits & veggies "anytime" foods--keep cut up veggies and a non-fat dip available in the fridge that kids can easily access and eat anytime; keep fruits available the same way, perhaps with a little fruit yogurt around, that they can feel free to eat in any quantity at any time--even if just before dinner!