Starting Sunday, San Diego children will be invited to play with their food.

We’re not talking about simple smiley pancakes. This is art prompted by the way food has permeated society.

“Food is such a hot topic for children,” said Tomoko Kuta, education and exhibitions director for The New Children’s Museum, where the new exhibit, Feast: The Art of Playing with Your Food opens to the public on Oct. 13. “There are concerns over obesity and what is in our food – genetically modified food, organic food, raw food and local food. We saw all these things converge and we thought about this as a serious topic for exhibition.”

While the news surrounding food-related topics can often feel sobering, the message here is quite the opposite. Food facts like hunger and food scarcity – heavy topics – are balanced with fun. An inflatable jumpy sends the message that exercise is the partner of balanced eating. The Sound Kitchen turns everyday kitchen appliances and the old pots and pans drum set into an actual recording studio. And in this exhibit, the mushrooms aren’t just for pizza. Mirroring the real world, where mushrooms are now being transformed into eco-packaging, here, lightweight mycelium bricks give kids the opportunity to build with food.

And who doesn’t love a food truck? The new exhibit gives kids the opportunity to customize their own, load it up with food and drive it around. Pass the fried chicken and waffles, please!

If you’re plucky, the kiddos may even get to interact with some real chickens that will be taking up residence on an outside terrace.

In a culture where marketing junk food to kids is prevalent, getting kids, no matter how small, to understand where real food comes from and the joy that comes with it is worth the price of admission — which, by the way, is free on Sunday.

Clare Leschin-Hoar

Clare Leschin-Hoar is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @c_leschin or email her

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