Food is a big part of our lives—it’s literally something we can’t live without. Kids get that.
While most children are more focused on trying to convince you that their broccoli isn’t hidden in their napkins, they also know that getting around the table as a family cements respectful, working relationships. What isn’t obvious to them is that food grown or produced closer to home is better for them and their surrounding environment.
Help your kiddos understand this concept by introducing the Foodometer to calculate the miles your food travels from the farm to your fridge.
First, be sure the little people in your life understand that food doesn’t originate at the grocery store or farmers market. Talk about how blueberries grow on bushes and asparagus are perennials that grow straight from the ground. You’ll also want to discuss the seasonality of food. Cover all the food groups (especially your kids’ favorite foods), and break down some of your most common meals as a family. Getting into how and where salt is mined and how spices are produced, while important, can likely wait until they’re a bit older—this information might be more interesting for teens.
Once the basics are covered, you’re ready to introduce the concept of local food. This can be a bit of a variable, since you can decide how close you want to count as “local.” No matter if your food is from a close radius of 100 miles, a more conventional 250 miles, or just produced within your home country, local means your food will be fresher, taste better, and use less energy and fuel during transportation. The money spent purchasing the food will support the economy where you live, too. Check out this informative Foodometer video and helpful accompanying article on the subject for guidance.
Bringing It Home for Kids
To help youngsters understand how far their food travels, spend some time introducing the idea into your home. Locate a world map to demonstrate just how far away some food is produced. It would be ideal if you have stickers of food that can be used with string to connect from the country of origin to your home. Pushpins, a piece of your food’s label, or star stickers are fine, too. In this activity, you should include food that’s truly local (like in your backyard, farmers market, or a community garden) to demonstrate your point.
There are a few ways to answer the question, “how far does food travel?” For instance, this UK-based website will calculate estimated miles that your food has covered. You can have your kids guess how many miles away food is produced and then look it up on the site. Additionally, if your kids are more creative learners, you can have them make up stories about all the adventures their food went on before it ended up at your home.
When Your Food Travels Far
Sometimes it’s crushing to find out your favorite foods come from across the world. For example, while mandarin oranges really are perfect for little hands (and easy to peel, like all the ads say), these small oranges are usually grown in places like Spain and China. Unless you live in Europe or Asia, that’s not very local. Are they your favorite kid’s favorite fruit? Talk to them about cutting back a bit on food that’s produced far away and choosing eats that are produced closer to home. Sometimes just by reading labels you can find orange juice produced with oranges in Florida instead of Brazil, for instance.
Will your family be swapping out some far-flung food for some produced in your area? Do you love the Food Miles website as much as I do? Let us know on Twitter!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.
Why It’s Good
Keeping your kids in the know about where food comes from and how far away it's produced helps them understand the importance of local food. Mixing a home lesson on how food grows, where it comes from, and just basic geography, is also a fun learning activity.