Teddy Bear Daycare & Preschool in Traverse City is teaching toddlers how to grow, harvest and cook fresh food. Patrick (age 3) likes the kale chips, while his friend Ana (age 4) prefers the cherry tomatoes she can eat right off the vine. Neither one liked the summer squash, but that’s okay, because the chickens did. And according to Patrick, “happy chickens give us more eggs.”

The two preschoolers attend Teddy Bear Daycare & Preschool, a Certified Nature Explore Classroom run by Beth Fryer. It is Fryer’s belief in whole foods and her commitment to teaching young children about healthy eating that has propelled the “farm to table” movement in daycares around the area.

“The National Farm to School Network, 10 cents a meal initiative and other programs have done a great job of improving student nutrition for grades K-12, but I believe health and nutrition education needs to start younger than that,” says Fryer.

Finding limited resources for farm-fresh food for preschool-age children, Fryer decided to create her own – with the help of the children, of course. Working together, the daycare students germinated seeds, helped build raised-beds, planted fruits and vegetables, and later harvested and cooked their bounty for lunch and snacks. They also raised chicks and continue to gather their eggs on a daily basis.

“We’ve talked about items plants need to survive, performed science experiments to hypothesize which of our fruits would float, and chopped, peeled and eaten a variety of vegetables that many children had never been exposed to before,” explains Fryer.

They’ve also welcomed other daycare providers to their unique homestead, providing tips, tricks and advice to help spread the farm to table movement with the youngest generation.

“Right now there are several programs focused on nutrition for K-12, but very little for preschool age-programs,” said Fryer. “We’re all working together, doing it a little at a time.”

To learn more about Teddy Bear Daycare check out their Facebook page.

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