My 6-year-old son has been at the same daycare since he was 1.5 years old—and his older brother was there for a few years before that. It’s a comfortable place with loving staff and active parent community close to our home. About three years ago, parents advocated for and managed to fundraise so that the in-house cook could purchase organic dairy products and meat.
But this past winter and spring things have really taken off on the food front. I’m pretty sure it’s because the new(ish) chef Sam has embraced his role as a food educator as well as cook. He introduced vermicomposting to the staff and kids, and has planted a veggie garden right outside the front door. They’re growing herbs and tomatoes, peppers and more. They are also attempting to sprout avocados in the classroom window—something I remember my mom doing when I was a kid.
Not only that, the food Sam makes is great—my son is always telling me how much he loves daycare lunches. The unspoken message (bless his little heart for not saying it out loud) is that it’s better than what we offer at home. But I’m not taking offense—at least he’s enjoying one meal a day.
Daycare staff in our city are notoriously underpaid (and undervalued, considering the essential service they provide) and licensed daycares themselves are few and far between in the downtown. So it’s not easy to find childcare in which the food is made in-house and food education—often considered an “extra”— plays a role in daily life.
A curriculum guide called Grow It, Try It, Like It: Preschool Fun with Fruits and Vegetables has recently been produced in the US aimed at daycares interested in doing as Sam has done. It’s all about getting kids to touch, smell and taste new things and have fun doing it. Imagine the possibilities for change to our food system when kids as young as three are learning (and experiencing) healthy, sustainable eating and growing simply as part of their every day.