Where in the World is your Food From?

It seems that in our busy life of fast food and convenience, many people have become so disconnected from their food, they don’t know where their food actually comes from (or what it is made of!). This is the first article in a series to help kids understand more about our food system.

Today we’re mapping our fruits and vegetables: with a little research in the supermarket, the kids are discovering where our food was grown and how long it traveled to get here!

Where is our Food from?- Kid World Citizen

We recently packed a notebook and pen with us during a trip to the supermarket, on a quest to see where our fruit and vegetables were grown. Luckily, most of the supermarkets near us label the origins of the produce, and my kids were able to gather their data quite independently.

Origins of Fruit Imports- Kid World CitizenWhere Our Food is From- Kid World CitizenI let them choose which fruits and veggies they would write down, and they happily ran from bin to bin recording the data. My little kids would point out their favorites, but were a little more entertained trying all of the juicy samples:).

Learning Where Our Food is From- Kid World CitizenLearning about Fruit- Kid World CitizenOnce they decided we were finished, we came home to work on locating the origins of the foods. The older kids decided it would be better to draw pictures of the foods, to help the little kids “read” the results better.

Anytime my girls can turn a project into art, they do! They enjoyed drawing little pictures of the grapes and pineapples, zucchini and carrots. We used card stock and markers and they helped each other decipher handwriting and illustrate their data.

Mapping our Fruit- Kid World CitizenOnce we had all of the pictures cut out, we attached tape, and I had the kids try to find the countries of origin of all of the fruits and vegetables we had recorded. Some countries were harder to find than others! Perhaps it was because we went to Whole Foods- which tries to stock lots of local items- but I was pleasantly surprised that we had a LOT of food grown locally in our state (Texas). I think I was suspecting to have more Latin American produce- but maybe at different times of the year this would change? We are in summer, which is the height of fresh harvest.Where our veggies and fruit is from- Kid World Citizen

We also had a lot of fruit from California, which produces more than half of all of the fruits and vegetables in the US. We talked about how citrus grows in the winter in warmer climates, and how in January, the oranges, lemons, and limes would probably come from Florida or Texas. Right now it is winter in the southern hemisphere, and the oranges available are from Australia. I introduced the idea of eating foods that are grown locally, so that we don’t waste resources and contribute to pollution in the transportation of the fruit and veggies. The kids found the fruits that had traveled the farthest (Australia and New Zealand), and we talked about how they could have arrived to the US (via barges, traveling across the oceans). We traced their possible routes from their farms to our house and saw that we had a choice to buy apples from New Zealand or Chile. I wondered why we didn’t have any Michigan or Minnesota apples!? Being from Chicago, we would go pick apples- maybe the Midwest farms keep the apples local:).

Oranges from Australia- Kid World Citizen

We also talked about how fruits and vegetables are freshest right when they are picked. Traveling long distances, they lose nutrients and flavor. We talked about eating foods in season, and how buying from a Farmer’s Market might mean that the food was picked the same day we buy it.

Mapping Fruits and Veggies- Kid World Citizen

It was a great activity, that combined geography, with some science and nutrition thrown in.

Here are some other articles for parents to learn more:

The Value of Locally Produced Food

The Best Tasting Food Ripens Close to Home

Local Harvest, a US-based web site that helps find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Australian Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s Markets in Europe (see list at bottom of article)

Locavore has a free app to help you find local foods in season.

22 responses to “Where in the World is your Food From?

  1. I love this activity! Such a cool lesson and very visual with the drawings instead of just names. I think that was great add on from your kids.

    • kidworldcitizen

      Of course in many countries, this would be a moot point. Someone once asked me how to say farmer’s market in Spanish- it’s just the market:). It’s the every day market with tons of people selling and buying. I think in some countries buying local is the natural, inexpensive way, and it’s the huge box stores that come in and start importing from countries far away.

  2. Great ideas! I think kids (and adults) just take for granted where our food comes from. To take this a little further, you can talk about prices, and why food prices fluctuate. It also teaches them about climate as well.

    • kidworldcitizen

      Ooh, that’s a great idea! I wonder what the difference of price was between the New Zealand apples and the Chilean apples, vs those from California? Interesting.

  3. What a wonderful idea! I am going to do this with my daughter!

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  5. What a great idea!

    My son is still a bubba, but I’ve bookmarked this page and your blog for future reference!

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  8. Definitely a great activity. One of the fascinating areas to me in this is the opportunity to highlight the different inputs of environmental impact – it’s not just about buying local, you also have to buy things that grow *well* locally – otherwise you might be doing less damage by importing.

    And the other thing I love to think about is the history of food – where it was first produced, and how it came to be popular in other places.

    • You are totally right. I heard a great story on NPR a while back that highlighted green transportation practices from New Zealand, that actually had less of a carbon footprint than veggies transported on land across the US. I think getting the conversations started helps us open our eyes to the different scenarios and at least begin thinking about where our food comes from. On a little tangent- I think this goes hand in hand with my yard and gardening- I’m always looking for plants that grow well in my garden that don’t require excessive care:). Whatever has grown naturally here for thousands of years must be able to survive without fertilizer and excessive water, right? :)

      • Definitely right! And sometimes it can be the small variations – Thai basil is so much easier to look after here than sweet basil – you can really begin to appreciate how that difference must look on a large scale, as opposed to just my one pot!

        And yet you can often substitute one for the other much of the time and no it’s not *the same* but it’s still very tasty (some purists probably still see it as heresy).

        We’ve become perhaps a bit too lazy about adapting to our environment, instead of the other way around.

        Interesting about the transport from NZ vs US. Not a result I would have expected at all. Would love to unravel that story – I might have to look it up.

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  16. What a great post! Love this activity! Keeping the kids learning makes everything more fun!


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