After 10 years of serving kids in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, TABLE is well known for the impact we make every week delivering healthy, nutritious food to children who may otherwise be at risk for hunger. What many are unaware of is the effect TABLE’s nutrition education programs have on the children we serve. So, why does TABLE invest in nutrition education?
Take a moment to think about when you learned about proteins, grains, and how to read a nutrition label? Where did you learn about nutrition and how to eat healthy? For many people, these basic lessons start at an early age but for the children we serve who may not have access to nutritious, healthy food, these lessons may go untaught. That’s why we created SnackChef, TABLE’s primary nutrition education program that teaches kids how to make eating healthy and taking care of their bodies easy and fun!
Each SnackChef session begins with an interactive nutrition lesson that builds upon the information taught the previous week. We incorporate games and activities to keep the kids engaged, even after a long day of school, and we spend time learning about MyPlate, where food comes from, and how to read a nutrition label.
At the start of the 2018 Fall semester, we surveyed children who participated in SnackChef about basic nutritional knowledge and only 7.5% could correctly label the MyPlate diagram. After just two months of learning about MyPlate and how to build a healthy meal, a mid-year survey of the same group showed that the percent of children who could correctly label the MyPlate diagram increased to 14.1%! This is based on just one, 30-minute lesson each week. Just imagine the long-term impact if children had consistent nutrition education from an early age!
Survey results also showed the percent of children who identified whole wheat bread to be healthier than white bread increased from 58.5% to 74.6%. Why does this matter? When whole grains are refined, such as the flour used to make white bread, they are stripped of many nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Small changes, like eating whole wheat bread instead of white bread, can add up and have a huge impact on overall health and lead to the consumption of a varied and balanced diet.
We end each SnackChef session by teaching children how to make a fun and healthy snack that is tied to the nutrition lesson they participated in that day. Not only are we fulfilling our mission of feeding hungry children by doing this, but we are also exposing children to new foods and encouraging them to try at least two bites of the snack, even the ingredients they may think they do not like. If they do, they get to join the “Two-Bite Club” and receive a sticker! Why? Recent research shows that it could take between three and six tries to increase a child’s acceptance of new foods and what better place to try new foods than around your friends who are trying them too!
Through SnackChef, we work each week to empower children to take control of their own health by teaching them how food is intimately intertwined with their daily nutrition habits. TABLE invests in nutrition education because we know learning healthy eating habits early in life will help build resiliency in the future.