I have been working a lot lately in my practicum placement that brings inner city and underprivileged grade 5 and 6 students to the university I attend. These kids go through a number of different programs while on campus including education, sports, and nutrition. I am one of the Nutrition Co-ordinators for this program and I am responsible for grocery shopping, creating lesson plans, finding recipes, and anything else that ensures the smooth running of the nutrition portion of the program. My partner and I are responsible for feeding 120 people a week in our kitchen space and things can get very crazy!
I have learned a lot about nutrition eduction while being involved with this program. It’s very interesting to encounter people who have different eating habits than you. We have many religious food preferences as well as food allergies to deal with, and when feeding 120 that’s a lot to take into consideration when creating the lesson plan and choosing the recipes.
We try to do three things with the kids every time they come into the kitchen:
1. Teach them a new kitchen skill, or strengthen skills they already know: We’ve done cutting, cooking at the stove, and using the oven among other things, and we’re always trying to get the kids involved with the cooking process.
2. Give the kids something new to try: Many of these kids are low income or new-comer children and they haven’t had the opportunity to try many of the foods we eat all the time. When they are here with us in the kitchen it’s the perfect chance to show them something they might not get to see any other time.
3. Get them talking about food and nutrition: We like to make sneaky swaps like using whole wheat pasta instead of white and we ask the kids if they notice. Half the time they don’t and these moments are great educational moments. This way of teaching the kids is way more interesting for them and they are more engaged when it’s hands on.
Getting these kids interested in food and teaching them about food at a young age will give them the confidence and skills they need in the kitchen when they reach adulthood.
Do you think nutrition education for kids is important? What is your role in ensuring our future generations know how to prepare food?