It might be a daily battle to get your kids to eat what you make them, but that might change when they learn about how it ended up on their plate at Little Food Festival.

Over two days this school holidays, Little Food Festival offers a jam-packed program of fun and informative activities at Fed Square. Best of all, it’s free.

Little Food Festival was started in 2018 by public health expert Dr Sandro Demaio, the CEO of Vic Health, founder of the Sandro Demaio Foundation and a former medical officer at World Health Organisation in Geneva. You might also remember him from Ask The Doctor on ABC.

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Demaio started the festival – the first and only one for kids in Australia – after realising there were few ways for children to learn about food. “Working as a doctor and then working in public health, [I saw] it was really hard for kids to connect the dots: understand where our food comes from, what’s in season, how the food we eat influences our bodies, and how it has a huge impact on the planet,” he tells Broadsheet.

“I think people see the opportunity of bringing kids together at a really young age, helping them to connect with food and through food some of the big challenges [we face] … across health, the climate and broader society,” Demaio says. “It’s about giving young people agency not to just be part of the conversation but really to drive some of the solutions.”

Demaio says there’s an endless supply of things to taste, try, watch and learn at the festival this year.

Loretta Bolotin’s social enterprise Free to Feed joins the program for the first time. Their Columbian chef will be teaching kids how to make traditional South American snacks. Koorie Heritage Trust will also make its debut showing kids how to make traditional damper and teaching them about First Nations food systems.

Returning this year are a host of long-time supporters, including Costa Georgiadis sharing the magic of composting and worm farms; Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation’s team talking about small-space garden solutions and how we can encourage kids in the kitchen; and kids can make a fruit and vegetable rainbow with the Community Grocer.

When the kids aren’t planting lettuce, parsley and broccoli seedlings with help from Bunnings, they can hop on a smoothie bike and spin their own drink with fruit rescued by OzHarvest, create still-life meals from Play-Doh, watch a Rooftop Bees beehive in action and make beeswax candles, and make their own jar of pickles with Dillicious Pickles.

Melbourne creative Beci Orpin is also back with her paper cut-out activity to teach kids about seasonal produce. “Orpin is also doing a massive installation and there’s going to be an opportunity to watch it being built,” Demaio says.

On stage, Pacifika Movement will tells the Samoan story of harvesting koko for chocolate through dance, and Junkyard Beats will get all the kids dancing and making music with recovered food packaging. And finally, to finish out each day, there will be an open-air cinema at 3pm playing food- and sustainability-themed movies The Lorax and James and the Giant Peach.

The festival is geared toward primary school-aged kids, but Demaio says everyone that comes along will walk away with something. “You can see there are lightbulbs going off with the parents as well as the kids,” Demaio says. “Parents might come along and engage with CSIRO around how food is produced and the processing of food … or it might be … Costa talking about what can go in the green bin and compost bin, and what can’t. Or Thanh the Fruit Nerd with Free to Feed and OzHarvest [all] talking about food waste and the enormous environmental footprint.”

A host of social enterprise food trucks will be on-site for snacks and lunch, including Cornutopia, Crepes for Change, Corner Store Network and Lil Dumplin Van – all served using Green My Plate’s reusable crockery. OzHarvest is collecting any unused whole food to be rescued and reused.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Fed Square. Little Food Festival takes place from 10am – 3pm from April 10–11 at Fed Square. Entry is free and open to all ages. No tickets required.