Teach Kids To Grow, Eat and Share

If you have not heard the name Laura Greene or Grow, Eat, Share, take note. She is an example of yet another bold and ambitious food lover who is trying to fill the gaps in our food education system. The story starts when Laura was working as a volunteer with a local kindergarden and she came face to face with the realities of what kids were eating.

Knowing that the parents are choosing to pack their kids junk food for lunch did not deter her from trying to teach the kids, in spite of their parents. What really "sealed her fate", if you will, was when she brought one of these kindergardeners to Riverbend Farm, only to discover that he did not know what a farm was. I suppose that when your lunch is glowing with artificial color and absent of vegetables, how could anyone even think that food comes from a farm?

This desire to help began an adventure that is now in its second year and has led Greene to the realization that kids are only picky if you label them that way. One thing that Greene believes in is the need to promote openness and options, instead of rules and negativity. What does this mean? That what helps most is adding things to a child's diet, not removing. There is no way that you can compete with the appeal of some snacks and processed foods, but you also don't need to. First of all, saying no often makes kids just want something even more. A great first step is a positive one: to connect kids with food options and expand their diet to include vegetables and fruits along with the chips and cookies. Then, the next step is to engage kids by empowering them to take part in the creation and preparation of food.

Starting to make sense now? Hopefully, but I'm sure many remain skeptical. These are just pipe dreams, good ideas that will never work. I was slightly skeptical at points. I knew there would be the success stories, such as a little girl who learned how to make soup and then made it for her mom who had to work late. Or perhaps it was another student who liked the soup so much, that they requested it for their birthday. Could it be I was most impressed by the 5th grader who now designs and plants his own garden? Almost there. I think the amazing thing is that of the two dozen kids Laura had in her summer class, not a one refused to participate and eat their vegetables. 

Why does it work? After speaking with Greene on a few different occasions, I believe it may be a combination of involvement and empowerment, which actually go hand in hand. Involve kids in your activites and it will empower them. In the garden, the kids get to have the hands on experience of creating something themselves. This is a truly powerful experience for children who spend much of the time being guided or helped along by adults and who are told "no" more than "yes". When free to create something, they really open up and accept what is happening. You see this in imaginative playtime and how much fun they have when allowed to create scenarios and games by themselves.

It also works at the grocery store. In the process of teaching children about food, Greene often takes children to the store to help with the shopping. Again, this is an interactive process. They learn to observe the food available and begin to note the differences. They buy store eggs to take back to the garden to compare with the fresh eggs available there. They also get to help make dessert. Sure they will eat a veggie pizza made from garden goods, but why not make some cookies too. The kids get to help decide what will go in them. The most fun cookie creation to date might have been the blueberry, white chocolate, ginger cookies. It is easy to see the involvement here, but take note of the opportunities for empowerment: making choices, helping the plants thrive, harvesting, cooking and then teaching their parents what they learned.

This gets to one last point that Greene loves to talk about. The fact that even though many parents make unhealthy choices, the kids are still creating their likes, dislikes and habits. It is often much easier toHomemade goat cheese in cheese clothHomemade goat cheese in cheese cloth influence the kids than the parents and once the kids start requesting broccoli, the parents will often go along for the ride. It is "sneaky", just like all of the hidden exercise involved in gardening, cooking, dishes. Sure beats tv! 

The opportunities for growth here are endless and the fruits are sweet indeed. Grow, Eat, Share is just entering its fall season, with classes this week. The Grow, Eat, Share Farm Edition begins on Thursday the 22nd at the Mustard Seed Garden in Chaska. The Farm Edition has four classes and includes garden tours and an intro into fall crops and harvesting. The kids will learn how to make goat cheese, will compare farm/store eggs and cook meals using things found in the garden. To learn more about this program or past/future Spring and Summer programs, visit the website. To sign up for Farm Editions, click here.



Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at 
Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at