With childhood obesity on the rise and no end to the mass-marketing of processed foods, parents have a great opportunity this summer to take measures into their own hands. Boston has become a national model for fighting fat with fresh farm produce.
There are now two dozen farmers markets throughout Suffolk County, delivering fresh, Massachusetts-grown produce nearly 30 times a week. (Visit www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/farmers_markets.htm for more information.) Contrary to the national despair about “food deserts’’ in low-income neighborhoods, there are farmers markets in Chelsea, Roxbury, Mattapan, East Boston, Mission Hill, South Boston, and five locations in Dorchester. Most locations in Boston accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. The on-line sustainability guide SustainLane ranks Boston third in the nation for local food and agriculture.
There is no more urgent time to make the farmer’s market a family ritual. For uninitiated children, it will be a jarring separation from the candy rack. But the gains are clear: Childhood obesity can be a precursor to a lifetime of poor health. Beginning the process of weaning children from processed food should be a summertime ritual. If parents give their kids the opportunity to pick one fruit or vegetable, any fruit or vegetable, we wager that more than one youth will be entranced by the fire-truck red of truly fresh tomatoes or the aroma of ripe peaches. Their lives will be better for it.