Editor’s note: The following Q&A is part of Xpress‘ annual Kids Issues.
Debbi Timson, Growing Minds program coordinator at ASAP, discusses healthy eating habits, local foods and the positive results that come when families cook together.
Why is it so important to introduce kids to healthy foods?
Not just healthy foods, but fresh local foods. Nothing’s better than a strawberry that’s in season! Teaching children where their food comes from is a building block to healthy eating. When they learn where that strawberry comes from — or if they grew strawberries in their school garden — they are more likely to try it. Those positive food experiences will help them continue to be more willing to try other healthy foods. We have an abundant amount of farmers in Western North Carolina — from farmers markets to roadside stands to even a corner in our grocery stores. Local is everywhere.
How can the community encourage children to grow their own food and learn to love healthy cooking?
I think it’s the other way around — the children are encouraging the community. Over and over, we see that it’s the children that get excited about growing their own food in their school gardens or in pots in their classrooms. That encourages their families to continue that excitement at home by prepping and/or cooking together. When families start to grow food at home, the word spreads, and that excitement grows throughout their communities.
What role does healthy food play in helping kids thrive?
Everything! Eating healthy local foods is the cornerstone of them thriving. Filling their bellies with fresh local foods nourishes their brain, body and overall wellness. Positive nutritional habits that are formed in early childhood will remain with them throughout their life.