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Nature Museum Teaches Kids Where Food Comes From

By Paul Biasco | March 25, 2013 8:06am | Updated on March 25, 2013 11:31am

LINCOLN PARK — In a city rife with food deserts and fast food, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum hopes to educate Chicago's youths about where food really comes from with its newest exhibit, "Food: The Nature of Eating," which opened Saturday.

"We all really enjoy this urban environment, but it takes a lot of energy to feed," said Alvaro Ramos, the museum's vice president and curator of museum experience. "It's trendy and very easy to say 'eat organic, know where your food comes from,' but it can be difficult."

The exhibit is broken down into three stages — the land, the market and the table — and each stage has interactive elements for kids such as a mock garden in the back of a pickup that kids can climb up to, tunnels through a section focusing on the original Chicago Stockyards, and a lunch line similar to that of a school cafeteria.

"Food is kind of the Wild West," said Deborah Lahey, the museum's CEO and president. "How do we tell the story of how we are connected in Chicago? We felt like we could tell this."

Some parents at the opening said the exhibit is vital for children, who often have no idea where the food slopped on their lunch trays come from.

"I think it's something that you really need to teach kids about," said Sylvia Juzwa, who was at the museum with her two children. "They don't know what a potato chip is made of."

Lahey said she hopes children who visit the exhibit bring the food knowledge to their homes.

"I'm hopeful that it really gets their juices flowing, and they can take it back to their families to talk about it," she said.