There’s a clip on YouTube by British chef Jamie Oliver, where he asks kids to identify certain fruits and vegetables. Try as they may to employ all senses to help identify, say a tomato, they fall short in this very crucial exercise.
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However, when the six-year-olds are asked if they know what ketchup is, they excitedly raise their hands in knowledge, even managing to name a few ketchup brands. You should see the shock and confusion on these children’s faces when the chef finally makes the connection between ketchup and tomatoes.
“Oh, tomato ketchup. I know that one,” says one of the kids in realisation.
Then like a UFO, they study these alien tomatoes. In another video, when kids are asked where oranges come from, they confidently shout, “the supermarket”.
These case studies are a worrying trend showing that children nowadays barely know what fresh food looks like, let alone where it comes from.
To bridge this knowledge gap before it turns into a national tragedy, my suggestion is that agriculture should be taught at the elementary level when the kids’ minds are impressionable and easily moulded.
And by teaching, I don’t mean challenging kids to think about nutrition, but for school lunches to provide a range of food choices, so the kids’ sensory experience can be engaged in terms of taste, texture and pleasure.
It has been shown that the sensory experience of eating is what drives childhood learning about food and nutrition.
In fact, every school should have a school garden or gardening club to provide new and exciting opportunities to connect production with consumption.
These spaces have the potential to change the way schools think about healthy eating by giving children the freedom to touch, taste, smell and – above all – understand the source and value of fresh food.