Welcome to Rootopia! This is the place where the art, science, and fun of raising happy, healthy kids comes together. Research shows that growing, cooking, and eating healthy foods with your kids leads to a whole lot of good things – from health and academics to leadership and well-being. As busy parents (or teachers, grandparents or family friends) we all want our kids to thrive, but we also know how hard it can be to bridge the gap between doing the “right” thing and doing the thing I have time for while working a job, running errands, getting the car fixed (again!), getting the kids ready for school, cleaning the house… and what was that “right” thing again, anyway?
That’s where Rootopia comes in. You can count on Rootopia recipes, activities, and blog posts to be:
- Evidence-based – That’s a fancy way of saying we did the homework for you. It’s not allowed when you’re a kid, but it’s highly praised when you’re a parent.
- Easy to fit in a busy schedule – always important!
- Easy to fit in a budget – just as important!
- Fun for kids and the rest of the family too – extra super important!
We also focus on what we think of as “tradition-making” recipes and activities. What do we mean by that? They’re the things that we hope you’ll want to do in your garden (or window sill!), kitchen, and table again and again, and that your kids will do with theirs.
Thanks for visiting!
About Rootopia Recipes
To bring you tradition-making recipes I’ve teamed up with the amazing Chef Garrett Berdan, RDN, LD. He’s a rare combination of culinary professional: trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and a registered dietician. I look to his guidance to develop recipes for Rootopia that are evidence-based and follow the following criteria:
- Easy: About 8 ingredients, and generally adolescents could do them with some guidance from adults. Install the free BigOven app, and you can save and organize Rootopia recipes for menu planning and making your grocery list.
- Delicious: Flavor inspirations drawn from cultures around the world, yet you can make with ingredients from the USA.
- Nutritious: Meal ideas are informed by MyPlate, and individual recipes are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
- Sustainable: Recipes are inspired by the Culinary Institute of America’s Menus of Change principals.
About Rootopia Activities
We dug deep to identify the essential skills and developmental assets needed for lifelong healthy eating and happiness. Then we developed activities families can do about once a week, for about 20 minutes, to cultivate those life skills. We categorize the activities seasonally and based on where you would likely do them – either in the garden or kitchen, or sitting at the table.
- Garden If kids grow it or choose it, they will eat it. Garden themed activities connect families with how food is grown, and the various ways in which it is processed and purchased. You will get inspiration and tools to plan, plant, tend, and harvest food with your family, whether in their backyard, on a windowsill, or in a school, rooftop or community garden.
- Kitchen If kids cook it, they will eat it. Kitchen themed activities will give you modeling of both quick food preparation with kids at home most days of the week, and creating memorable culinary experiences.
- Table If kids serve themselves, they will eat it. Table topics broadly consider how food is served, what type of food is served, and when and where food is consumed. The table themes will cover content on the technical aspects of healthy eating and active living not otherwise presented, such as menu planning, goal setting and reflection.
About Rootopia Blog Posts
My blog posts dive deeper into conversations about food production and consumption from seed to stomach.
About Michelle Ratcliffe, Ph.D.
I’m Michelle Ratcliffe, Ph.D. a “Farm to Family Specialist.” I’m a career mom with two growing boys, living on a 4-acre farm in the heart of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. My mission is making it easy to raise happy, healthy kids, while helping our farmers prosper.
As a first-generation American who struggled in school, digging in the earth and growing food grounded me and turned me on to academics. Over the past 20 years, I’ve tried just about everything in the local food world. I have worked on farms, in food processing, and with non-profit organizations. I’ve also taught in school gardens and served in state government. I’ve even piloted a local foodie TV show! All the while, I’ve been researching ways to get more local healthy foods on our plates and advocating for policy changes that would do that.
I earned a doctorate in Agriculture, Food and the Environment from Tufts University with research focused on the impacts of school gardening on adolescents. I’ve also earned a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, focusing on agriculture and biotechnology. And before that, I muscled my way through a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana. Lots of school, I know, tell me about it.
Thanks for tuning in. Fellow readers and I have much to learn from you, so please share and comment away, and “smash that like button” as my boys like to say.