If you have ever planted a garden of your own, then you know the pride that comes with growing your own food. Carrots taste sweeter when they're the product of your own labor. Leafy greens seem even healthier when you know that they have been grown free of pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals. Kids, too, can get a taste of that pride -- and find a new appreciation for vegetables -- by helping out in a community garden.
If you already live in a location with a community garden, then helping out is easy. Visit the garden in the spring when the first crops are being planted. Speak with the folks who manage the garden and ask how the children can help. Gardeners are always happy show kids how to plant seeds or weed around a fragile seedling. As the kids grow older, you might want to reserve your own plot at the community garden and start growing food in earnest.
Let the kids browse the seed catalogs with you, picking out this season's flavors. You'll be amazed at how deeply your kids will care about "their" tomatoes or "their" green beans if they feel part of the process from the beginning. The same goes for meal planning. After a successful harvest of zucchini or green peppers, let the kids choose a yummy-sounding recipe and help with the preparation. Again, it's amazing how a previously picky kid will gulp down a veggie-heavy dish that he or she helped to create.
Another option is to join something called a CSA, short for community supported agriculture. Your family subscribes to a local farm and receives a weekly share of vegetables all season long. In return, you and the kids can come out and help plant, weed and harvest. It's a way to support local farms and get incredibly fresh produce in return. Find a CSA near you using LocalHarvest.org.
On the next page, we'll look at volunteer opportunities to serve sick and disabled children.