Studies document that kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, and neither do their parents. However I discovered a different truth last Saturday at the Buy Local Health and Fitness Fair hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and the City of Santa Monica Buy Local initiative.
FRESH FREE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
I partnered with Bruce Palma and his team at Co-oportunity in Santa Monica to offer free samples of organic and seasonal produce to both kids and adults, and I couldn’t keep up with demand. Within minutes I was clamoring for help.
Participants whisked samples off the table almost as fast as I could set them down. With six extra hands from PAL volunteers and another two from the Chamber, 48 quarts of fresh produce and all the apples, pears and pomegranate on display disappeared over the course of the afternoon. What a success!
Using 2 ounce paper souffle cups, folks sampled sweet and nutty fresh figs or a small clump of velvety and pungent concord grapes. The small portions fit easily into tiny hands, especially those hesitant to try a bite.
Even the most wary participants found a way to try something, especially when I let them know they didn’t have to finish it.
NEW FLAVORS, NEW TEXTURES
Some tasted jicama for the first time, with one participate declaring it “solid water.” So refreshing!
While we struggled to keep watermelon samples on the table, sugar snap peas and Persian cucumbers also felt the love.
Adults marveled at yellow and purple carrots sampled alongside the expected orange variety. Most smiled as they realized that every carrot tasted just like carrots are expected to taste.
A myriad of reasons explain why kids aren’t eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables cost far more than refined starchy snacks and sugar, 4-10 times more for every hundred calories, and organic produce costs even more. In essence, current US Farm policy subsidizes poor food choices.
Data also shows that people eat salads at fast food restaurants about the same way they eat salads at home. Not much. Thankfully, kids tend to enjoy side options like sliced apples, baby carrots, and tangerines when they are included in kid’s meals.
However after Saturday, I’m thinking that maybe the most significant reason that many kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables is that adults aren’t familiar with the wide variety of truly delicious produce, especially fruits and vegetables grown, picked, and enjoyed in season, either. We can change that.
INVITE KIDS TO BE A FOOD EXPLORER
Throughout the day, adults and children alike learned of Co-oportunity’s Food Explorers program with the opportunity for kids to enjoy a piece of fresh fruit every time they visit the store. Other retailers have similar programs, so let’s figure this out.
Let’s figure out how to create more opportunities for kids and adults to try a variety of fresh produce in season, at the fullest flavor and freshness. Let them learn what they like and what they don’t like.
And then let’s press the USDA to stop subsidizing crops that give us the cheapest calories and start subsidizing the fruits and vegetables they want us to eat. Who’s in?