Early nutrition intervention in a child’s life may be the optimal window for promoting the development of healthy eating behaviors. FSNE has several nutrition education programs geared toward school age children for this reason. During my time at the University of Maryland Extension’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program (FSNE), I had the opportunity to not only observe, but also teach a few nutrition education sessions. The curriculum we used is called ReFresh. It focuses on encouraging 4th and 5th grade students to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains through hands-on activities, food demonstrations, and tastings. ReFresh integrates nutrition education into different subjects already in the schools curriculum like math, art, science, English, technology, engineering, and social studies.
We began the lesson by asking the students some questions. What are some “all the time” foods? Why are fruits and vegetables healthy? What in them makes them healthy? The kids knew the answer we were looking for: the vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables are what make them healthy.
My partner, Ben, and me teaching a ReFresh Lesson.
We then played an interactive grocery store game to teach the kids which vitamins are in the different colored fruits and veggies. For example, we read a short passage about a pilot needing to eat his orange fruits and veggies in order to have great vision. One student from each table then ran over to the grocery store and put an orange fruit or vegetable in their bag. We repeated this with three more colors: red protects against cancer, purple is good for memory, and green for bones and muscles. This was a fun and hands-on way to get the kids interested in different vitamins and minerals and to get them moving.
The second activity we did with the class was “cook” a recipe together. The recipe was for a pasta salad called confetti spaghetti. The recipe included cooked pasta, mozzarella cheese, dressing, and vegetables of various colors: carrots, red cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and red bell peppers. The tables were given a bowl of cooked pasta and handfuls of each vegetable. The students worked together to cut up the vegetables and put them in the pasta. We then added dressing and cheese for the students that wanted it. They then shook up the container and served each other. FSNE has a rule called “don’t yuck my yum.” The kids are not supposed to say “yuck,” “ew,” “gross,” etc. to allow their classmates who enjoyed the tasting to continue eating. They are asked to try at least two bites.
Overall, confetti spaghetti was a big hit. The majority of the class liked the recipe, and many of the students told me they tried at least one new vegetable. The tasting was a great way to get the students excited about some nutrient-rich foods. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many students wanted the recipe cards to take home to their parents. I am grateful for this experience of teaching children and making an impact on their lives.