Sunday, 8 November 2009

Food for thought

'So they don't come from Brussels then?'

Er, no.

'And that's the way they grow?'


'See, I told you they don't come in a bag like frozen peas!'

You had to be there I suppose, in the queue at Boston market. And and in the immortal words of Mr Tom Jones, such things are not unusual.

'We get that all the time,' the woman on the veg stall told me. 'People even take photos of 'em sometimes...'


Yes, folks. Really. So just to be clear: this is where brussel sprouts come from. Not Iceland. Not Brussels. Boston market.

And while we're on the subject, meat doesn't come from the supermarket, and milk isn't made in milk factories. I haven't always been this food savvy, but living in the middle of the country's main veg producing area, you can't help picking up a few choice facts.

Apparently such knowledge isn't universal, which is just one reason why The Potato Story is touring schools and educating kids about food provenance. In the wake of recent e-coli outbreak, trips to farm parks have declined dramatically. Some children grow up without knowing anything about where their food is coming from. A survey by McCain discovered 1 in 10 children between the ages seven and eleven think that chickens lay potatoes, and 1 in 5 have no idea that chips come from the humble spud. As someone whose motto has always been that ignorance is seldom bliss, I'm more than a little worried. Because not knowing about the stuff you eat stacks the odds in favour of the manufacturer. And - much as I'd like to believe otherwise - most of the time its their balance sheet that's uppermost in their mind, and not your health.

It's worth checking the ingredients on those packets, sourcing that supply of eggs and meat. And while you're at it, iPod and iPhone users can niftily compare the salt and sodium content of their food with the new FSA Salt Application. Crunch the numbers and it tells you whether what you're eating is ok for everyday consumption or should - at best - be something like a rare treat. Shake it, and it gives a range of handy tips about cutting down your salt intake, substituting healthier alternatives without sacrificing flavour. It's simple to use and can be age specific, making it handy to have while family shopping in the supermarket.

Ultimately, I suppose the best way to teach kids about food and healthy eating is to get them to get their hands dirty. And - thanks to The Potato Story - I've got a lovely little gardening kit to give away. It's the perfect thing for getting little fingers green (or worse). All you've got to do is leave a comment between now and Tuesday. It's that easy. What do you do to keep your family food savvy?

And you know what grows from little acorns, don't you?

Yes, you've got it - Brussel Sprouts!
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