So how do we instill in our children a respect for food so that they grow up with an appreciation that a good meal is a gift that takes hard work? I think it starts from knowing that not everyone has access to a good meal, and here are some other suggestions:
1. Set the Table: One of the first things that you do when you want to celebrate something or someone is to get dressed up in honor of that person or accomplishment. Do the same for the meal that you are serving tonight. I don’t care if it is ‘take out’ or you slaved over the stove for hours. Set your table so that it is pleasing to the eye and inviting for everyone. That means removing all books and papers from your dining room table, even if you have to resurrect your table from years of neglect or misuse. Also, children love to decorate, so give them the chore of creating a table worthy of a feast. When you do this long enough, you just may get back into your kitchen to create a feast again (or for the first time).
2. Leftover Makeovers: If children see you throwing away food into the garbage can, they will come to believe that food is not valuable. Since they would never throw something of value in the trash, that is a valid conclusion. If there are leftovers from a meal let your children know how you are going to transform them into a delicious dinner tomorrow night or pack for their lunch tomorrow.
3. Say Thanks: Religion aside for a moment; giving thanks for the food that is in front of us at a meal sends a powerful message to our children. It says that food is valuable and what we put in our bodies deserves our attention. A ritual before a meal that brings insight into the steps that it took to get food on the table can be quite instructional. For example, give thanks to everyone that helped get dinner to your table: mom and dad for working to pay for the meal; the farmer who grew the meal; the driver who brought the meal to the store; the grocery store clerk who sold it to you. Something that requires so much attention and people must be very valuable.
4. Perspective is Key: While I do not promote using the old-fashioned technique of talking about kids in India or Africa starving in order to get our kids to eat their meal, I do think that this information serves an essential purpose. Children need to know that not all children have enough to eat in the world in order for them to understand that there is not a limitless supply of food. With this understanding children are more apt to value the food they get and perhaps help others get enough to eat too (see the following suggestion).
5. Sponsor a Child: I want to bring up my children with an awareness that there are children in the world that go to bed hungry, both in the United States and other places. The fact that it does not take a lot of money to support feeding a child gives us as a family a way of making a difference in the world without stressing our budget. I want them to know that food is about connection and love and I think that sponsoring a child is the best way to demonstrate that belief. Here are some examples of places that you can go to in order to sponsor a child:
Future generations need this generation to work towards a healthier future; one in which healthy food, food straight from nature, is abundant for all. This begins with honoring food.