Learning about food from elders

Why consider this?

The traditions in many cultures of sharing knowledge through writing and recipes, songs and celebration, and especially through eating traditional foods, is so important for understanding where our food comes from, how it’s grown or produced, and how we’ve eaten it for sustenance, medicine and celebration.

Elders and grandparents are a wealth of traditional knowledge that needs to be passed on to future generations. Encourage them to share this knowledge and experience with children. Not only will it benefit the children, but also show our elders the respect we have for their wisdom and life experiences and help them feel appreciated and included.

Consider the following ways to engage elders:

  • Invite an elder from one of the children’s families into a centre. They might speak to the relationship they had with food as a child or adult, how the food landscape has changed or how the availability of foods may be different in other parts of the world. Perhaps they can share a unique food or dish from their culture.
  • Make a family or centre recipe book. Have elders send in a traditional family recipe and children can make a picture to accompany the recipe. Be sure to make some of the recipes to try together, ideally getting the children involved in the food preparation!
  • Get gardening. Many people have not learned the important skill of growing their own food. Many elders still have this incredible knowledge to share and keep our food system more sustainable. They also often have more time to spend in the garden with children, teaching them about different plants and helping them plant and tend a seed.
  • Create arts and crafts. Draw pictures of family meals and celebrations—who is around the table and which foods and dishes are eaten for different events?
  • Learn about one culture. Consider learning about a certain culture during one of their holidays (e.g. Indian foods and Diwali, North American foods and Thanksgiving or traditional foods served for celebrations such as Hanukkah or Eid). Read books about this culture, sing songs or listen to music in the language of the culture, draw pictures of cultural foods and hopefully sample some.