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How to Teach Your Kids About the Importance of Organic
Shaina Olmanson

As a parent, one thing I hope to instill in my children is an understanding of food. While I recognize that they may not all enjoy cooking as I do or find pleasure in trying new recipes or being adventurous, I can teach them the importance of the food we eat and the why we eat it. It's this idea of food as a life skill that has me bringing them to the farmer's market, paying for our vegetables in cash, and helping them choose produce from a large selection on the vendor's table. It's this idea that has us standing in the cereal aisle trying to determine which granola to buy.

Food is an ongoing conversation in our home. From the minute my children wake up in the morning, we are discussing what's for breakfast. Will it be eggs or oatmeal? Are fruit smoothies an option? Then we're packing lunchboxes, and when they appear off the bus in the afternoon there are snacks and dinner to talk about. As I approach each of these situations with my kids, what I hope they come to understand is that we are looking at more than do I feel like eating an apple or an orange today? I want them to recognize that a peach tastes best when it's in season, ripened by the sun. I hope for them to understand the reasons we avoid high-fructose corn syrup and chemical food dyes, talking to them about studies and farming practices. These are difficult concepts for most adults to comprehend at times, so how do we introduce these to our children?

Be honest. Often our default when it comes to children's questions is to simply answer, "Because." Rather than brushing off their curiosity, give them a basic understanding. When talking to them about avoiding food dyes, explain why you're avoiding them, and show them the alternatives. "No, we aren't going to buy that yogurt because here on the ingredients…but over here we can buy one of these ones. Look at the flavors they have to choose from." Show them that there are options within the organic space, too. 
    
Use more than words to educate them. My kids accompany me to the farm to pick strawberries in the spring and blueberries in the summer. As summer turns to autumn, we plan our apple orchard trip. Beyond picking your own food with your kids, you can also seek out opportunities to get involved with a CSA or to help during planting season at a farm in your area. It can be as simple as planting an herb garden or a container strawberry plant on your back deck. These experiences will help them appreciate the work that goes into growing their food. 

Use a screen. There are so many documentaries these days that show the food cycle process or talk about the importance of growing organics. Look for them or even 5-minute clips from them on the internet for your kids to hear the same advice given to them from other adults and sources. Talk to them about why it's important or what they are thinking after they've seen the clips. 

As my children grow, I've seen how my daughter has started reading the backs of boxes at the store, and how her questions have gone from "Why can't we eat this?" to "Why would they put that in food?" With the pressures of society, peers, and advertising, I know that these conversations are important for my kids to understand our food system and where our food comes from and to realize that not all food is created equal so they can make these decisions on their own. 

 

Shaina Olmanson is the freelance food writer, author, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to educate their children about the food we eat. Food for My Family has been named one of the Top 100 Mom Food Blogs by Babble.com for the past four years. Shaina is the author of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines. She lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, an urban oasis surrounded by farms and fields of green.

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