As I write this, much of the country is being blanketed with snow and ice. The rest of us are just really cold! Spring may seem far away, but for some areas, in just a few weeks, the early Spring blooms will appear. It’s a great time to start a family service activity that will help your children work on their character as well.
You will need to gather a few supplies before starting. You will want some containers you can use as temporary pots. Have some fun recycling containers around your house like those for drink or food. You will also need some soil. While you can use the dirt in your yard, for best results you may want to purchase a small bag of soil that already has some fertilizer mixed in. Finally, if you cook using fresh fruits and vegetables, you may already have what you need, but if not, you will need a few grocery items listed below.
Start by talking to your kids about the various times in the Bible when people didn’t have enough food. Discuss the various ways people found food – usually by traveling to a place that had more food, by sharing with others, by a miracle or some combination of factors. If you want to focus on a specific story, Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17:7-24 is a good one to use.
Explain that even today, some people have problems finding enough food to eat. Some children live in families where their parents don’t give them very much food and the only food they get is when they are at school. It is important to help children who are hungry have enough food to be healthy. It is also a great way to serve them to teach them how to grow their own free food when they aren’t able to purchase it.
Explain that when we cook, we often throw away things that could be planted and grow us free food for the future. It takes a little while at first, but if you regularly plant these things when you use them, you will soon have a steady supply of free food. If you don’t have land to plant a garden or it is cold outside, many of these things can be grown in containers and indoors. (FYI: Home Depot sells great Meyer lemon and key lime trees that produce fruit in pots indoors.)
Here’s a partial list of some of the things you and your children can plant to grow free food. Please note that seeds in some hybrid fruits and vegetables will not produce plants or plants that produce fruit. If you have access to a farmers’ market, their produce often works best. For plants where you plant roots, most grocery store items will work fine.
- Onions – plant roots you chop off
- Celery – plant bottom you chop off (it’s a root)
- Garlic – plant a clove and get a bulb of cloves eventually
- Romaine lettuce – plant the bottom you chop off
- Ginger – plant a small section, preferably with a “knot” on it
- Herbs – place a stem of the herb in a glass of water in sunlight, once roots grow, plant in dirt
- Potato – let grow “eyes” then plant each eye
- Sweet potato – place toothpicks and put bottom off in water in a glass in sunlight, planting in dirt once a vine grows
- Carrots – plant the leafy green top you chop off
- Beets and other similar root vegetables – plant leafy top you chop off
- Pineapple – chop off leafy top with a bit of fruit and plant (I’ve gotten a beautiful plant, but no fruit although some people also get fruit)
- Seeds from things like tomatoes. Note that this process takes much longer and can be hampered if the seeds are from a hybrid.
If you really enjoy the project, there are more extensive lists and instructions online. Your family may also want to explore hydroponic gardening. Some missionaries in food deprived areas also teach a type of gardening that is combined with raising fish that is really fascinating.
Growing food from kitchen scraps can teach your children patience, perseverance, responsibility, a strong work ethic, generosity, a servant heart and other godly character traits. It also teaches them a practical life skill that will help them have free food should they ever need it, and allows them to empower those without sufficient food to grow their own food, too. It’s a great family project for any time of the year!