The New Jewish Food Commandments
Guidelines to ensure that fresh, local, and environmentally friendly food lands on your kids' plates
Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments (or at least the Charlton Heston movie) and know all about those golden rules to live by. But while that covers idolatry and adultery, when it comes to the food we feed our family, a newer perspective could be of use.
Of course the Bible has its fair share of rules--keeping kosher, anyone?--but in these health-conscious and environmentally friendly times, it seems like we could use some additional rules, ones with an eye toward organic, local, and ethically produced food. Here are 10 new food commandments to ensure healthy and delicious eating habits that are good for you, your kids, and the environment.
1. Eat less meat, fish, and chicken. Make sure that what you do eat is grown in an ethical and sustainable manner.
Eating less meat is healthier for your body and the universe. Raising animals for food is often not just an unhealthy practice for the animals and those who eat them, but contributes to air, soil, and water pollution. Ethical, healthier, kosher options include KOL Foods, a company that ships out of Silver Spring, MD and Brooklyn's Grow and Behold Foods.
2. Eat dinner together as a family every night.
Eating dinner together every night helps children learn that life should not be composed of endless junk food snacks. When we eat real food, our body knows how to process it, we know we've eaten, and we feel full. Eating dinner together also gives parents an opportunity to model good eating habits, such as eating whole grains, piling your plate with steamed veggies, and limiting meat consumption.
3. Show your children what real food is and where it comes from.
Show your children where food comes from--as in the ground or a tree, rather than the supermarket. Food is grown on a farm and there are different types of farms with positive and negative impacts on the crops, soil, environment, and your health. Do your research online, talk to friends in the know and talk to the farmer at your local farmers market. Make a relationship with those who supply your food.
4. Buy directly from local farms to help perpetuate sustainable practices.
Farms in this country and others often do not pay their workers a fair wage. Cutting out the middleman by buying directly from a sustainable farm, such as through a farmers market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), can support small farms, their employees, and sustainable farming practices.
5. Become responsible for growing, canning, or preserving your food in some way.
Whether you sprout chickpeas, preserve apples through the cooking and canning of apple butter, or make sour pickles from cucumbers; your children will understand that certain foods grow at certain times of the year and can be preserved and enjoyed for the rest of the year. Try bringing home a big bucket of fruit and then divvy it up for eating, baking, preserving, and freezing--the hands-on education will stay with them for a lifetime.
6. Pick some of your own fruit every summer.
Picking your own fruit in the summer is one of the most effective ways for kids to internalize the effort it takes workers to pick just one little pint of blueberries. This will encourage them to be grateful for their food, value and savor it, and also understand the need to support workers' rights through the purchase of fair trade foods.
7. Be grateful for your food and where it comes from.
Many Jews offer thanks for their food before they eat it, noting if it's a fruit or a vegetable. Even if you don't say a blessing every time, or at all, you can play a game with your kids and ask them where the food they're eating comes from--a tree or the ground.
8. Learn to eat as seasonally as possible.
When children understand the concept of seasons, they may also understand that the earth gives us what we need when we need it, says Vivian Lehrer, co-founder and director of Eden Village Camp, an eco-Jewish camp in New York. She lists seasonal examples, such as eating 1) cool juicy berries in the summer 2) root vegetables in the fall 3) meat and potatoes in the winter and then 4) greens to cleanse us in the spring.
9. Practice empathy and charity when dealing with your local food sources.
Practicing the tzedekah principle of supporting local businesses will teach children to be compassionate consumers and empathetic human beings. That empathy can extend past producers and to consumers. A tangible way for them to understand that many kids do not have access to the fresh food they do, is to show them "food deserts"; poor areas without access to proper supermarkets with unprocessed foods. You can volunteer with or start a local program to remedy this problem.
10. Give your children a global perspective on the food industry, and encourage them to apply this to their own community.
Show your kids the movie, "Food, Inc." Let them develop a critical eye towards food advertisements and the food around them. Ask them what their school cafeteria serves and how it makes them feel. Where does it come from? Does it support their local community, values, and growing bodies? Chances are, there will be plenty of room for improvement and for your family to get involved. Imagine the pride they will feel having helped their community, themselves, and their fellow students to eat, live, and feel better. Join Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and give your school administrators this free resource for changing the way food is bought, prepared and sold at your school.