Many of us know the basics of healthy eating, but are we making the best decisions when it comes to what we eat? Creating good eating habits takes a lot of practice and the earlier those habits begin, the better. This is the focus of our Kid's Farmers Market Program — to introduce food literacy at a young age, setting the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. The intent of all food banks is to provide food to the community through different outlets and non-profit member agencies; however, we realize that providing food to our community isn't enough to fulfill our mission of ending hunger and transforming the health of our county. We need to go further, teaching families the value of good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
One simple way to teach healthy eating habits is by encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. Our program brings unlikely foods together in a healthy recipe that the kids can then share at home with their family. Recipes' such as our Colorful Kale Salad and our Orange-tastic smoothie incorporate fruits and vegetables in a fun, delicious way. Our goal is to captivate the young audience and, dare we say, create healthy eating habits.
Kale, pumpkins, and broccoli are just a few of the "special ingredients" the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County uses for our Kid's Farmers Market program. Starting with only 2 pilot sites, Kid's Farmers Market has now grown to 25 sites countywide including 3 new sites this year with the help of the National Dairy Council and Feeding America.
By integrating nutritional lessons within afterschool programs at Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA's, and After School Education and Safety programs, we train community leaders to become Nutrition Educators at different program sites. Each month the sites receive a lesson with a different seasonal fruit or vegetable as the focal point for a smaller group of students. Afterward the kids participate in a smaller version of a farmer's market where the kids can choose their own fresh produce to take home and share with their family.
Our Nutrition Educators engage the kids by having them look, touch, taste, and smell new fruits and vegetables that they may not ordinarily find in their homes. Maybe they don't remember every vitamin, but they remember the experience and how easy it can be to eat healthy. Each lesson is a new experience for the kids, and even if they haven't seen a green smoothie before or aren't familiar with kale, they're all willing to try it (and ask for more!).
Through a $10,000 grant from the National Dairy Council, we are now able to expand this program to three additional sites in the areas of Santa Barbara County where resources fall short, where free and reduced meal percentages are above 89.9%, and nutritional needs are high. With this funding we are able to bring this program to low-income areas to build their awareness on healthy eating habits and play a part in a greater movement in Santa Barbara County.
About the Author Eloisa Chavez, a Los Angeles native, came to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County with the desire to help others in her new community of Santa Barbara, CA. Before settling as the Community Programs Coordinator, Chavez previously worked in various positions at the Foodbank within the Agency Relations and Development Departments. She now coordinates the Kid's Farmers Market, BackPack, and Brown Bag programs countywide.
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