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Garden Lessons Cause Kids To Crave Vegetables

Kids displaying a carrot, a beet and greens.

Grow, Cook, Eat

One way to teach good-food virtues to kids: get their hands dirty.

In Boston, a restaurant owner and a chef have joined forces with an urban youth program to show kids how good fresh, local food can be. And they seem to be on to something.

The project, called Farm to Change, shows kids between the ages of 8 and 12 how to grow food from seed and make recipes from their harvests.

At the Blue Hill Boys and Girls Club in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, kids plan a menu in early spring, and then plant and grow the vegetables they need to serve it.

Owner of the Post 390 restaurant, Chris Himmel, said cultivating produce connects kids more closely to their food than classroom instruction or even trips to a farm.

“You can really see it in their eyes that it means something to them, and it’s something they take home and they talk to their parents about,” he said. “The goal is that maybe they’ll have those discussions so that when it comes time to make those food decisions, maybe they’ll make a bit more of a healthier choice.”

Picky Eaters

Figuring out what kind of foods kids respond to is a "hit-or-miss" process, Himmel said.

At a summer barbecue, the program served kid-picked sweet corn, grilled inside the husks and seasoned with olive oil and sea salt. He said the corn even overshadowed sugary treats that had been held in reserve as a kind of bribe.

“None of the kids wanted anything to do with the cookies. All they wanted to eat was the entire tray of corn,” he said. “To me that said hey, this is kind of working.”

Cucumber and fruit-flavored drinks with no added sugar, on the other hand, were not so popular.

“They came off the basketball court like they were going for Gatorade, and they were taking sips and just spitting it all over,” he said. “I think it was the shock factor—'this isn’t Coca Cola or any of that stuff.' It shows you what we’re up against. They have their mind set on that stuff already at 8 to 10 years old.”

Other garden-source recipes that worked, he said, included flat-bread pizza with kale and fresh tomatoes, and sweet-and-sour ratatouille.

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