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Learning from Seed to Table
One of the most notable results of children spending less time outdoors is
the continuing rise in obesity rates, even among preschool-age children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in seven
low-income, preschool-age children is obese. In fact, since 1980 obesity
among children and adolescents has nearly tripled. About 17 percent of all
children ages two to nineteen are obese (Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention 2014). Why is there is an obesity epidemic in the United States?
Lack of exercise is clearly part of the equation. Children need to
spend more time moving. In addition, the overconsumption of fast
food and highly processed food has become a serious problem in the
United States. Children today often lack a clear understanding of
where food comes from. Meat appears in plastic-wrapped containers
in supermarkets. Fruits and vegetables come from cans or appear on
plates—sliced, mashed, or fried. Some children live in food deserts,
areas of the country where fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable.
These children may have no exposure to unprocessed food because
their families are unable to buy fresh produce.
Jamie Oliver’s (2010) TED Talk gives us stunning insight.
Oliver shows a video of himself interacting with a kindergarten
class in Huntington, West Virginia. He holds up a bunch of ripe,
red tomatoes. “Who knows what this is?” he asks. A child answers,
“Potatoes.” Oliver offers a head of cauliflower to a blond-headed boy.
“Do you know what that is?” The boy shakes his head. Oliver asks
a second child, “Do you know what that is?” The child’s answer:
“Broccoli?” Oliver shows the children an eggplant. “Who knows
what that is?” A child responds, “Uh, pear?” Finally, Oliver holds up
the staple of many children’s diets, an Idaho potato. Surely, they will
know what this is. “What do you think this is?” he asks. The response was, “I
How can it be that children don’t recognize the source of their french fries
and mashed potatoes? Have they never seen them made from scratch? Have
they never seen fresh vegetables? Are we really becoming so far removed
from the source of our food that our children don’t even recognize basic veg-
etables? As Oliver states, “If the kids don’t know what stuff is, then they will
never eat it.”
Gardening gives children the opportunity to see food develop from seed
through all the changes and processes until it arrives at the table. Children
plant squash seeds on a small hill of soil, then water them, waiting to see the
small seedlings emerge. Soon those seedlings are growing a sprawling vine of
large, green leaves. The children observe as big, yellow blossoms develop on
12 • Chapter 1