By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
As a child, growing up in rural Indiana, I was very aware of where my food came from.
My family always had a garden and what we did not grow we U-Picked.
By the end of the growing season, our freezer was full of beans, peaches, apples, blackberries, and peppers while the pantry was full of home-canned tomatoes, corn, and strawberry jam.
When I went to elementary school the story was the same. The cooks showed up when we did for school and cooked our meals from scratch. Homemade chicken and dumplings, angel biscuits, fresh green beans and applesauce cake for dessert was the norm not the exception when it came to our lunches.
Those who brought their lunch were not excluded from the fresh food. There was always free fruit in season available to everyone. While for some this may seem like a dream, I promise you it was not. It was just a rural community that supported the school with excess produce that turned into fresh meals.
These wonderful meals continued until Iwent into middle school. Processed food was now the norm. You could still get a traditional lunch that was more like a meal but most kids, including myself, did not think that was “cool” so we went for the pizza and fries.
This scenario occurred some 20 plus years ago and today there seems to be interest in providing fresh and healthy meals for children. This movement is nationwide and can be found in large cities and small town. Most programs purchase produce from local farmers. This approach is a win/win for everyone. The carbon footprint created by traditional food transport is reduced when local food is used. Also, it helps the community by supporting local businesses. Kids, once again, develop a relationship between their food and land especially if they know the farmer.
This nationwide program, Farm to School is becoming so successful that this past October was the first farm to school month. Also, some universities are going in and providing instruction on how to create an edible schoolyard. All these programs work toward creating sustainability and healthy eating habits that I took for granted as a child.
As an old saying goes, “What is old will be new again.” I hope this is a “new idea” that will never grow old again. I hope as gardeners, parents, and grandparents that we demand the freshest food possible for our children and grandchildren. I hope we, as a society, look at our local farmers for support before purchasing the tasteless, trucked in produce that many children are used to. And when our own gardens produce more than we can use, donate it to local schools or just offer it free to those in need.
So as this year’s gardening season comes to an end, in many areas, reflect back on the season and consider how you can help your community in healthy habits. Until we blog again, gardening is a life-supporting skill that is lost to the youth. Support your local gardening programs to pass on the gardening legacy.