How many of us remember sitting at the dining table years ago, and listening to our mother’s traditional plea to get us to eat our vegetables? She’d point to our plate with wasted food on it and say: “There are starving children all over the world who would be grateful for what you’re leaving on your plate.”
Actually, her words were true then and certainly apply today. However, as effective as that plea may be, there are other ways parents can use to help their children understand the importance of food economy. Some suggestions to prevent the waste of food may include:
1. Teach your children early the economics of family income, as it affects food needs and costs. Help them understand the limits of your food budget, and how much you can afford to spend when you go shopping. When they’re old enough to understand and appreciate the experiencde, take them to the grocery store with you. Let them participate in choosing the food, making practical selections based on price, family needs, budget limits, nutrition and other factors.
2. Let your older children participate in menu planning, cooking and serving family meals. Their duties will also include helping in dishwashing and other cleaning chores. In some families, allowances are based on the amount of participation each child offers to help in household duties.
3. Teach your children the value of buying retail, as well as in bulk, preparing meals to be frozen in serving portions and used later. The children should acquire the skills involved in extending food economy by preparing and serving attractive leftovers.
4. When parents are serving meals, particularly for younger children, it is economical to dole out small portions. Give them seconds if they ask for them. Praise and reward for those small children who eat all the food on their plates.
5. Serve healthy and tasty desserts in small individual containers or as small helpings of raw or preserved fruit. For in-between meal snacks, get the children into the habit of eating raw fruit. If possible, stay away from the expensive over-salted, over-sugared or over-priced commercial snacks.
6. If you want to give your children some very practical experience in food economy, accompany them as volunteers to programs, such as Second Harvest. Check with local charities that offer surplus food to needy families.
Start early to help your children appreciate the value of food, and how wasting it has many negative effects on your family and others.