I have been thinking about storytelling this past week. Specifically, about New Zealand's food stories.

Storytelling has come up in multiple contexts. It started at the Potatoes New Zealand conference, where I was one of the speakers.

In my talk, I encouraged potato growers and marketers to tell the story of the potato, from paddock to plate, as a way of getting Kiwis to fall back in love with the spud, which you might say has a bit of an image problem right now in our carb-obsessed world.

I proposed that because people are really interested in learning about where their food comes from - how it's grown and how it's made - it makes sense to tell this story on social media as a way of reminding Kiwis that potatoes are, in fact, one of their favourite foods.


We're also very interested right now in food that is more natural, whole and unprocessed, which of course potatoes (unless they're in the form of chips) are.

This sentiment was echoed by representatives of gourmet grocery chain Farro Fresh.

They say that hearing the stories of the food and local producers who make it is key for their customers. Farro shoppers want to know all about who has grown or made their food, and prefer to buy products when they know their stories.

We feel more connected emotionally to our food, it seems, when we know more about its origins.

It strikes me that emotion is also part of the picture when it comes to eating for health. Food is emotional. And when we connect emotionally to our food, we are more likely to enjoy it.

It's easy to understand that this works both ways for health.

Many people eat for emotional reasons - stress, anxiety, sadness, happiness - and this can lead to disordered eating and consequent health problems. And of course emotional connection - in a positive way - also comes from getting hands-on with our food. In other words, getting into the kitchen and cooking.

I see this in action when I visit schools who take part in the Garden to Table programme.

Without fail, it makes me emotional (in a joyful way) to see the enthusiasm and engagement of the kids in the kitchen and the garden.

But more importantly, the kids get emotionally involved when they get their hands into the soil and on to the knives and spoons and spatulas.

They learn the stories of their food; that vegetables don't come from the supermarket, they come from the ground. And they become part of the story of their food when they get involved in cooking it.

It has shocked more than one parent to see their child sitting down at the end of class and tucking into a bowl of lentil and vegetable soup; kids will often eat healthy foods they'd never touch at home when they've cooked them themselves.

When kids carry those stories with them it can have powerful, healthy and life-long effects.

• Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large of Good Food Guide.