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The greatest gift I can give my children

I talk to my two children Everett, 9, and Vivian, 3, about food a lot. I talk to them in the kitchen, and I talk to them in the store. We talk about where foods are grown and what foods are in season for Minnesota. We talk about farmers who grow ...

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Everett and Vivian Rudolph preparing a salad by cutting vegetables after a trip to the grocery store. (Brenda Rudolph / Special to Agweek)

I talk to my two children Everett, 9, and Vivian, 3, about food a lot. I talk to them in the kitchen, and I talk to them in the store. We talk about where foods are grown and what foods are in season for Minnesota. We talk about farmers who grow the foods on our kitchen table.

As we grocery shop, I talk about the food we are putting into our cart. I talk about what brands I choose and why. I look to see if a certain item is on sale and explain why or why not I choose to put it into my cart. I talk about what we already have at home and what things we need. I talk about what is good food and what is a treat food.

When Everett was a toddler, as we were grocery shopping, I would allow him to pick out one item in the produce section or in the dairy case. At the time, this was to ease the tantrum at the check out when he would want candy. I would simply say, "Then you have to put back your chocolate milk or bananas" or whatever item he had picked out.

I would ask him, "Which is a better choice?" He always made the better choice. At the time I didn't realize the groundwork I was laying down; I just wanted to get out of the store without a screaming kid. One time when I told him no and asked what was a better choice, a lady behind us smiled at Everett and said, "You have a good mom." I brushed it off. How could she know in three seconds I was a good mom.

This past Saturday on our way to the grocery store, Everett and I were talking about a salad he wanted to make. He wanted to add strawberries. As we talked, I said we would have to see how much they were because they were out of season. His quick words and understanding took me by surprise. He began to talk about the hurricane that had just hit Florida and how that could raise prices. He began to think out loud about how it hit the Panhandle, and there are still other places strawberries are grown, but the trucks need to get in first. He began talking about warm places where strawberries are grown. I was surprised how much he truly understood. How much he understood what it takes to have fresh fruits and vegetables in the grocery store in central Minnesota year round.

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We finished our shopping with strawberries in the cart. As we were unloading our cart at the cashier, Vivian began a conversation with the lady waiting behind us. Vivian was holding her mini mozzarella cheeses, and she proudly told the lady that cheese is made from milk. The lady was taken aback because I'm sure it isn't common knowledge among 3-year-olds that cheese is made from milk. Vivian told her again. Then she looked at fresh pineapple the lady was holding and said, "I like pineapple!" Again, the kind lady had a look of surprise.

The small interactions of the day reinforced to me the greatest gift I can give my children is to talk about food with them. To talk about good food choices and poor food choices. What we like and what we don't like. To have them in the kitchen with me when I cook and bake. To talk about food is the greatest gift.

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Brenda Rudolph

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Brenda Rudolph

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