At Lancaster Towers one of the daily unknowns is what meal times will bring with my toddler Lil’ H.  I hated weaning and perhaps the fall out of all the emotions of that is the picky, or not picky, unpredictable toddler that faces me for three meals a day.  I have a handful of balanced meal options I can present with minimal nonsense – spaghetti bolognese, sausage and mash, lasagne and fish pie.  Alongside this handful of “bankers” there are cookbooks, a bin and a freezer full of “denied” alternatives.  Just to be clear the rules around the refused meal options has small print attached – what is denied at home will be consumed (often with second helpings) at nursery – oh the power of peer pressure!

The difference in H’s eating between home and nursery is huge, probably massive and definitely really annoying.  Armed with my Annabel Karmel cookbooks I have cooked more meals for H than I have ever cooked for myself or for anyone else.  So to watch the food go from shop, to home, to oven, to table, through negotiation, some pleading, to low down tricks like dipping some in yoghurt, to flat refusal, to the bin (OK I confess I eat some!) is upsetting and being honest can be anger inducing. 

The difference between home and nursery got me thinking, what’s different and what can I replicate at home to improve my toddlers consumption?  Inviting his classmates round for tea everyday ain’t an option but helping me in the kitchen and the garden is.  H attends a Montessori nursery, one of the major appeals for me is the outdoor nature focussed activities they do, planting, growing & harvesting food from the vegetable garden, collecting eggs and helping create lunch from their efforts.  Taking involvement as the key thought I have managed to add “broccoli trees” and homemade pizza to the Toddler menu at Lancaster Towers over the last few weeks.  I don’t grow broccoli or wheat to grind flour to make pizza but H enjoys “chopping the trees” and decorating the pizza.  We talk about the food we’re using, where it comes from and it gets eaten with the special magic ingredient – pride.  Of course these are baby steps and if you were a Peeping Tom at my place last week you would have seen me cajoling Lil’ H with birthday candles using the chance to blow them out as an incentive for a mouthful of cottage pie – another of my parenting lows/tips shared – but hey it worked, we made it through another mealtime and this time had an empty to bowl at the end – success!

So when I was contacted by the people driving The Potato Story I was really keen to support and help spread the word about food provenance.  Especially so having my own domestic challenges overcome by some of the key thinking behind the programme that undertsanding where food comes from is a key part of developing lifelong healthy eating habits in children. 

‘The Potato Story’ is part of a wider campaign by McCain called ‘It’s all good’ and is focussed on educating kids on food provenance visiting UK schools in 2009 trying to combat the shocking stats below that:

  • 1 in 10 children aged 7 – 11 think chickens lay potatoes!
  • 1 in 5 have no idea that potatoes are grown in the ground
  • 1 in 5 didn’t realise that chips are made from the humble spud

‘The Potato Story’ has been delivering its message from a purpose built double-decker bus visiting over 130 UK primary schools and has to date reached out to in excess of 17,400 primary school pupils.  My Lil’ H is preschool in age so has “missed the bus” so to speak but I wanted to write about the campaign as I have taken inspiration from it and started at home.  Come Spring time we will be planting veg in the garden and I will write more in 2010 about what we grow, cook and eat, well hopefully eat anyway!

You can see pictures of all the fun of the tour here and learn more by visiting