What's the best way to get kids to eat real food? Get them involved in the process of putting food on the table. The closer they are to the root of that process, the better chance they have of recognizing, trying and even liking the food on their plate. Cooking with kids is a great start. Even better: gardening with kids so they can see where their food is coming from.

That's the general idea behind a new contest that aims to teach kids about real food by rewarding one lucky school with a Farm to School program or a school garden. The contest is called Root 4 Kids. To participate parents, family members, teachers and administrators simply need to commit to helping kids eat more veggies. The Root 4 Kids contest will award the school with the most sign-ups by May 31, 2011, with its choice of a Farm to School program or a school garden.  

The Farm to School program prize includes working with a state leader from the national Farm to School program to customize a combination of programs and events — such as farm field trips, a “tasting table” featuring a sampling of freshly harvested vegetables, or school meals prepared with vegetables harvested by students — that help kids connect with real food. The school garden prize includes basic supplies, including seeds, soil and select tools, and assistance from a gardening expert to get the garden started.

Both prizes would require some input and assistance from the local community to get them started and keep them going, but they might help you get past any red tape or funding issues that have stalled previous efforts. Interested? Check out the Root 4 Kids site to sign up.