Tips for Making the Most of Farmers' Market Season

By: Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner

I always tell my kids to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. It’s not just a cop-out so that I don’t have to get creative in the kitchen; it’s my way of simplifying what can at times seem like a complicated, overwhelming topic. It’s cutting through the myriad of messages about glycemic index and anti-inflammatories and free radicals and so on, and getting at what’s simple and solid: whole foods are better for our bodies than processed ones.

Have no doubt; this is about to become a very big issue in the United States. Feeding kids is one of the most significant responsibilities we have from day one, of course, but I mean bigger even than that. Food is going to become a topic of conversation and debate beyond just whether or not everybody will eat all the parts of the stir fry you made last week. It’s already becoming a topic of national interest with campaigns like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and Michele Obama's Let's Move Campaign.

Video: Watch as kids struggle to identify vegetables.

With the national conversation focused on nutrition comes exciting opportunity. We have, for example, a LOT of food in this country. Too much--some would say--judging by skyrocketing rates of obesity-related health problems such as Type II diabetes.

[Related: Tips for Motivating Couch Potato Kids]

But on the other hand, it’s inequitably distributed. An organization called “Fresh Moves” points out that many communities, urban ones in particular, have severely limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The same thing is true in the rural northern parts of Minnesota, the state I live in. Sometimes the nearest store is a glorified gas station some 50 miles away. Kids and their parents in these communities often end up eating a lot of convenience foods, which tend to be high in sodium and other additives and somewhat low in nutrients. Fresh Moves has developed mobile fruit and vegetable stands in response to the epidemic. Another initiative, Farm to School is working to get more fresh fruits, vegetables and other whole foods directly from the farm to kids’ trays.

I'm excited about this! Kids are finally getting energized about healthy eating in much the same way a generation ago kids got excited about wiping out underage tobacco use. They “get it” that healthy eating is a good idea…and they like it!

So what can you do to take advantage of this momentum? Here are some ideas:

  • Seek out the growing number of local farmers' markets. Find out which ones are nearest you through your library, local municipal government, or a web search.
  • Consider joining CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Many smaller farms have started offering a service where you invest in a share of the farm and each week you receive freshly harvested vegetables and/or fruits. Here’s a link to more information.
  • Start a container garden. Go one step better than getting your produce from a gardener and becoming the gardener yourself. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has some types that show how easy this can be.
  • Find out if your neighborhood has a community garden plot. Lots of them do, so even if you don’t have a garden spot at home, you may be able to score a little bit of green space of your own…and meet some neighbors in the process.
  • [Related: Getting Involved in Your Neighborhood]

  • Experiment with the new food you discover. Get your kids involved in experimenting with the new foods you discover through your CSA or Farmers' Market adventures. Make it play not work and have them help so they are invested in the result
  • [Related: Healthy Summer Eating]

    Tell Us:-->What's your favorite summer fruit or veggie?

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    Farmer's Market image via Natalie Maynor on Flick'r.

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    The video was unbelievable. I am so glad ABC will be sponsoring Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I have been interested in this topic for years. The article, “Overweight Children” was written for educators, but may be of interest to parents. For a direct link, click on: http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip36.html

    In addition, the Kelly Bear Health book was written to encourage children, ages 3 to 9, to eat healthy foods and to take care of their bodies. For more information, see:
    http://www.kellybear.com/MatBOOKS.html

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