Why your children will thank you for producing your own food
By: Mackenzie Fox
It’s a bit of a scary time to be a parent, unfortunately. The various economic crises and food shortages throughout the world have led to a vast increase of families simply not having enough to eat, a terrifying proposition for anyone taking care of children. In 2016, a reported 1 in 7 people went hungry in the USA. And even foodbanks (which donate food to organisations) and food pantries (which give food directly to those in need) often can’t handle the sheer amount of demand.
Low quality food
Even for families who aren’t going hungry, there are some serious concerns. Food purchased from supermarkets is very often designed to be quick and easy to cook, rather than nutritious. These foods, packed with salt and sugar or even sent to the shelves with traces of pesticides, can lead to complications like obesity and diabetes if a person eats too many. The problem there of course is that they’re tasty, and for a child in a busy family ready meals can become a habit that’s very hard to break. The result? Unhappy and unhealthy kids, who are probably not doing very well in school and maybe even in danger of life-threatening health problems.
First Lady Michelle Obama herself addressed some of these concerns in a 2010 speech at the School Nutrition Association conference. There, she spoke about how “from fast food, to vending machines packed with chips and candy, to a la carte lines, we tempt our kids with all kinds of unhealthy choices every day. And it’s no surprise that they don’t always pick the healthy ones,” She suggested some healthy eating ideas she had seen implemented in schools around the country, and most of these ideas boiled down to the use of urban agriculture: the production of organic food in and around urban areas, using help from the community living there if needed.
So what can this all do for you? Well, teaching children early what’s in their food, and how it’s made, sets them up to make healthier and healthier choices as they grow up. And if a child has seen their food go direct from the garden to their plate, and had it explained to them exactly what the process of growing food means, they’ll be engaged enough to start more frequently eating fresh food rather than junk. They may even start encouraging other children to do the same!
Plus, there’s more to health than just eating properly – being active can help with weight-loss tremendously, too. Getting the kids out of doors to go to an allotment or communal garden, or having them join gardening clubs at school, can double or triple the exercise that a child gets and therefore lead to an increased risk of obesity.
Benefits on a large scale
Those are the benefits for your children – but what about the benefits for the world? You might be surprised to hear about just how very beneficial urban agriculture is. For starters, food grown in gardens doesn’t need to be transported anywhere by truck, leading to less air pollution – and less of the harmful pollutants that cause things like asthma. Large urban gardens can help improve the air and soil quality around them, as well as having an obviously beneficial effect on the aesthetics of the area.
There’s also evidence that urban agriculture, or even just agriculture in general, can improve the mental health of those who partake in it. Simply going outside and joining in with making things grow can lower a person’s stress level and increase their feelings of wellbeing.
And lastly, of course, the food is free of dangerous chemicals, but still tastes good! In fact, it tastes a lot better than most store-bought stuff.
This all leads to an interesting question: can urban agriculture end world hunger? Well, it’s certainly a good start. But even with people like Michelle Obama firmly on its side, it’s going to have a long way to go – because that’s the case with all progression in the world. Yet, change starts with you! If you have a garden or even a little windowsill box, get planting – and if you don’t, start encouraging people in your community to make a communal garden in an empty space. The results could literally be life-changing.