I was never a picky eater neither a junk food junkie. If you think this is a back door brag, I'm sorry to disappoint. The truth is that as a child I ate whatever was put in front of me given that I had only two choices – throw a fit and stuff it down or stuff it down! This is just to say that I took a very long time to develop my own tastes. Most parents struggle with getting their kids to eat healthy. You try and resort to reasoning but when that doesn’t work, it’s either bribery or threats that do the trick. But the idea is to mould their palate and not put your foot down. It’s to make food fun for them. It’s to get them to like what they eat and let them learn to make healthy choices. That’s exactly the message which a two-day fest in New Delhi put across. Kids Culinaire was the Capital’s first-ever food festival designed for the young ones. With its prime focus to educate children about balanced food choices and fun around food, everything here was very thoughtful. And it had to be. The initiative was mothered by young parents Ratika vanNoord Bhatnagar & Rohini Mathur.
What triggered the idea? “When we go abroad, there’s just so much that you can do with your kids, but in India that concept of a picnic or fest is quite undermined. It’s nice to engage in outdoor activities that are not just fun but at the same time educational. Besides, parents are always worried about their children’s food and nutrition. So, we decided to fuse the two and come up with a fun concept,” says Ratika.
Under the spring sun with lovely greens in the backdrop, it was a fun-filled weekend. There were activities and workshops around ‘dining etiquettes’, ‘health & hygienic’ and ‘eating habits’. Chef Ranveer Brar from MasterChef and India’s youngest Celebrity Chef, Saransh Goila impressed kids with their kitchen skills and cooking demonstrations. Food artist, Smita Srivastava, interacted with parents on how they can make mealtime interesting with creative food art. Kids absorb more when they interact. Through contests and games they got to interact with food and learn more about concepts like creating a balance, food pyramid, colours in food and presentation. All these activities help them develop love for food. “We had storytelling sessions with kids. We selected those stories which tell them what they should eat or avoid. Every story had a message. This is the right age to learn and it’s also very important for parents to be involved in the learning process. But it wasn’t all work and no play. We created a kiddies kitchenette where they learnt how to conduct a tea-party. The kids loved it and came for the same activities again and again.” says Sangeeta Sharma from Amiown Pre-School, one of the partners for this event.
And then there was food, good food. From organic candy to pizzas with a healthy makeover, you could sit back and let your kids indulge. Needless to say, I did. Ayesha Grewal, founder of The Altitude Store, an organic food outlet says, “The key is to create awareness, engage with them more and provide substitutes for their favourite food. We did that by organizing a tour through a food farm where we showed different food groups like grains, dairy, proteins, vegetables and fruits and explained how food is procured. Kids could touch, feel, see and understand how food reaches the table. It’s like an open classroom.”
“We are targeting the age group of 3 to 12. It’s during these growing years that kids need to understand about healthy eating habits. That’s how they’ll be able to make healthy choices later in life. You are not being told to stop your kids from eating what they like or force them to eat what you feel is good for them. It’s all about creating a balance and at the same time respecting their choices,” says Rohini.
Through stitching a network of educational communities, nutritionists, chefs and food organizations, they hope to make it an annual event and share the same spirit in other cities.