Brian Halweil Offers Parents Top Five Tips for Enjoying Fresh Food and Summer Fun with their Children

Washington, D.C.Brian Halweil, Worldwatch senior researcher and author of Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, believes summer offers the perfect opportunity for children and parents to continue learning—about food grown near their homes.

“Visiting local farms, making summer salads, and other activities involving food grown nearby offer not only culinary and health benefits, but also educational opportunities,” says Halweil. “Just because kids—and their parents—aren’t in school, doesn’t mean they have to stop learning.”

Interactive field trips and activities are a perfect opportunity for kids to learn using all of their senses: children and parents alike can taste, touch, and smell locally-grown items while discovering the connections between health, the environment, and their food sources.

Here are Brian’s top five summer activities for kids and parents:

1) Local farmers markets: Stop by your local farmers market and fill your picnic basket with locally-grown fruits, vegetables, bread, and cheeses. Not only does local food provide superior taste (it’s fresher than supermarket produce, which typically travels between 1,500 and 2,000 miles before it reaches your plate), but it is also better for people’s health, the livelihoods of small farmers, and the global environment. And farmers markets don’t just supply food. They can offer everything from antique furniture and vintage clothing to jewelry, soaps, and other local arts and crafts. In the U.S., go to Local Harvest at www.localharvest.org to find a farmers market in your area.

2) Family-owned farms: Increasing numbers of family farmers are hosting farm visits, offering pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, and selling their goods directly to the public. Activities include everything from planting, harvesting, and tasting to learning about beneficial insects and local wildlife. Check out Local Harvest in the U.S. or www.agsites.net/links/farmvisits.html worldwide to find farms in your area that provide these types of activities.

3) Grow your own: Plant your own organic vegetable and flower garden with your kids and reap the benefits all summer long. The University of California, Davis, offers a beginner’s guide at vric.ucdavis.edu/selectnewtopic.garden.htm. If you don’t have your own plot of land, try growing an herb garden on your windowsill or check out community gardens in your area. Also, www.kitchengardeners.org is a great resource for the budding kitchen gardener.

4) Join a CSA: Joining a community supported agriculture organization—a CSA—enables you and your family to essentially buy a “share” of a working farm, and in return receive the freshest items harvested on a weekly or biweekly basis. Many CSAs also enable you to receive free produce in return for working on the farm.  Visit www.csacenter.org to find a CSA near you.

5) Make your own jams and jellies: Why not harvest berries and stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines while they are in season, and make jams and preserves to have all year round? Visit www.farm-garden.com for more on canning and preserving your own food. One sure way to make summer last is to enjoy homemade preserves throughout the year.

“These activities are not only educational, but they are far more imaginative and healthy than watching TV or play video games,” says Halweil. “I recommend getting outside, enjoying the sun, and exploring all the opportunities that local agriculture has to offer.”