In the world of haute cuisine, presentation is almost as important as taste. But take a group of young children and try teaching them how to make a healthy snack, and you’re bound to wind up with more giggling than gobbling. A tasty ant on a log made from celery, raisins and sunflower butter looked more like a gooey volcano. That green caterpillar crafted from chocolate chips and apple slices? Try a colorful abstract sculpture instead.
Such was snack time in Peoria’s Northmoor and Whittier elementary schools this fall, where Bradley dietetic intern master of science students Jazmin Bailon and Morgan Harm implemented an interactive snack program for the city’s after-school program.
“Things didn’t always look like we imagined, but that didn’t matter because they were learning healthy eating habits,” said Harm, of Burlington, Wis. “We brought a fun, creative activity and kids enjoyed it.”
Building on a plan developed by past dietetic interns, the duo partnered with school district food provider Sodexo to launch Fuel For Fun, which provided nutritious goodies twice a week. Instead of pre-packaged snacks, students received ingredients and instructions for the easily made treats. Recipes included common ingredients like fruit, yogurt, crackers, pretzels and nuts to encourage children to take ideas home.
As students tried recipes, they touched and smelled ingredients for a sensory experience. Bradley’s interns used these teachable moments to offer health and nutrition information children could use in their lives.
“We’re teaching them it’s food and fuel for life,” said Joliet, Ill. native Bailon. “If they want to dance, play or do homework, they need a balanced diet.”
The Bradley interns devoted their five-week internship rotation to building a sustainable program. In addition to helping students make a series of tasty treats, Bailon and Harm developed operations manuals and teaching points for school staff. With the skeleton in place, Sodexo will continue the program through the spring semester. It eventually could expand to other schools in the district.
“We were only with kids six days, but it was impactful,” Bailon said. “We have to empower the younger generation, and we could tell we accomplished that by their excitement and willingness to try new things.”
— Matt Hawkins
Photo by Duane Zehr