Students represent stages in the food system during a Chef in the Garden lesson.

Students represent stages in the food system during a Chef in the Garden lesson.

by Dean Zatkowsky

In April, Orfalea Foundation Chef Instructor Janet Stevenson and Explore Ecology Environmental Educator Maggie Iba offered a Chef In The Garden program at Aliso Elementary School in Carpinteria, California.

Students harvest beets under the supervision of Environmental Educator Maggie Iba.

Students harvest beets under the supervision of Environmental Educator Maggie Iba.

Children learned about food systems and the way food is grown, processed, transported, retailed, and consumed. They also got to harvest beets from their own school garden, and watched with fascination as Janet and Maggie showed them how to pickle beets they had just pulled out of the ground.

Chef Janet describes parts of the beet plant, before preparing it for pickling.

Chef Janet describes parts of the beet plant, before preparing it for pickling.

Here’s what most impressed this visitor at the event: When the children were allowed to sample pickled beets, they jumped at the chance and even asked for seconds. Now, I don’t know about you, but I was a picky eater as a kid, and even the words “pickled beets” would have grossed me out. But Janet and Maggie did such a great job showing these kids how to make a delicious snack from a plant growing in their own garden, the kids were enthralled and enthusiastic.

Students investigate the pickling ingredients.

Students investigate the pickling ingredients.

Participation – and the example set by adults around them – make a big difference in a child’s receptivity to new foods. The Chef in the Garden program involves the kids and demystifies where real food comes from, opening their minds – and palates – to new food experiences. There are many good reasons to build gardens in schools and yards, but helping children make healthier food choices throughout their lives is at the top of my list. And if any of you are picky eater adults, remember to set a good example by trying new foods with your kids.

Outdoor learning, fresh produce, and happy kids.

Outdoor learning, fresh produce, and happy kids.

Dean Zatkowsky is Communications Manager for the Orfalea Foundation

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