This project was an edition of Dr. Fink’s (HHK) Cooking Matters program, a hunger easement program that educates adults from at-risk populations about how to cook healthy, low-budget meals and how to avoid food waste. The goal of this project was to plan an event for the children in the city of Delaware that would help them become more excited about eating healthy, cooking and gardening with their family, and eating locally. To accomplish this goal, I organized an event for the children (“Littles”) and mentors (“Bigs”) in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program (a mentoring program for 25 children grades 5-8 at Willis Education Center). Some of the children in this program have a troubling home life, and a small thing I can do to support a healthy relationship between the children and their parents is to encourage the children to help their parents cook. During a two-hour program, the children learned about the food groups, completed a five-day meal plan, made salsa, made yogurt parfaits and either played outside or gardened. The children seemed to really enjoy the event and food, and cooking also served as a great bonding activity for the Littles to complete with their Bigs.
Methods and Results:
Dr. Fink (HHK) runs the hunger easement program called Cooking Matters, which educates adults from at-risk populations about how to cook healthy, low-budget meals and how to avoid food waste. I volunteer at Willis Education Center with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program (BBBS), which is a mentoring program for 25 children grades 5-8. I thought planning an event educating the kids about eating healthy and encouraging them to cook and garden with their parents would be a fun way to help support healthy relationships between the children and their families. I first contacted the Delaware County Program Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, Anna Wildermuth, who loved the idea, and we decided on a program day that I could host the event. I proposed my idea of incorporating an educational component to the Cooking Matters program for the children in the city of Delaware to Dr. Fink, and he put me in contact with Sierra Wright, the Cooking Matters Program Coordinator.
Sierra was excited to help, and we met to brainstorm ideas for the event. Some ideas included: yogurt sampling, hummus with carrots and celery, and homemade guacamole. While hummus and guacamole would have been fun snacks to make, I finally decided on making salsa and yogurt parfaits after consulting with Dr. Krygier because these snacks could be made from local ingredients, and could incorporate four of the five major food groups (fruits, dairy, vegetables and grains).
I searched online for information that I could give the children about the food groups and found the MyPlate website. On the website, I found a packet explaining the five food groups and the nutrients they contained (Figure 1). They also provided an activity called the Five-day meal plan where the children could plan out meals for five days that incorporated all five food groups. I decided to include this activity as an educational component to the event because it would help the children critically think about the meals they are eating.
Also attached in the packet was a letter to the parents of the children (Figure 2), which would hopefully prompt the children talk with their parents about the event. These handouts were important so that the children could start conversation with their parents about healthy eating after the event, and hopefully their parents would continue this education at home.
After the brainstorming session and online research, I attended a farm to table event hosted by Seminary Hill Farm and the students enrolled in Dr. Fink’s Cooking Matters class to gather ideas for how to structure my event. At the beginning of the event, everyone said their favorite food, which I decided would also be a good icebreaker to use at my event. Next we did an activity where we were given cups with different amounts of sugar and had to guess which drink contained what amount of sugar. Lemonade actually contained the most amount of sugar in the farm to table activity. Because the children drink lemonade each week during the BBBS program, I decided to make infused water as a healthier alternative for the children to try. I chose to prepare strawberry, lime and mint water; watermelon and mint water; and grapefruit, lemon and mint water. Finally, the students at the farm to table event taught us knife safety, gave us a recipe for soup, and helped us prepare the meal. Rather than teach the children knife safety, I decided to pre-cut all ingredients for the event for safety and efficiency. I found a recipe online to print out for each child so they could replicate the salsa at home if they wanted (Figure 3).
To obtain the materials necessary for this event, I contacted Chartwells about purchasing yogurt parfait ingredients, and they offered to donate all yogurt ingredients, bowls and spoons. I then contacted Barbara Wiehe to see if the greenhouse had any extra materials I could use for the gardening portion of the project, and she donated all the small pots, soil and seeds necessary for the activity (Figure 4). I printed out 1/8 sized sheets with instructions on how to transfer each plant out of the pot once the children returned home (Figure 4).
To obtain salsa ingredients, I contacted Tad Peterson from Seminary Hill Farm, but after offering to set up a meeting with me, he never returned my emails. Instead I went to Delaware County Community Market and saw I could obtain many salsa ingredients including locally made chips from the market. This turned out to be a great plan, because 20% of the profits from the purchase were donated to Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Ohio. I decided to buy the rest of the ingredients from Kroger because certain ingredients like tomatoes were not in season locally. I wrote a SIP Grant proposal for $81.98 (Table 1), which funded the flavored water ingredients, salsa ingredients and cost of printing informational packets about MyPlate.
Once all packets were printed and all supplies were purchased, it was time for the event. At the start of the event, I asked the children to shout out their favorite type of food. Their responses were overwhelmingly “pizza!”. Next, I asked the children if anyone could tell me the five food groups. One girl listed four of them, then after some time of the children shouting out their thoughts, I read them off the list of the five major food groups and gave each Little the packet from MyPlate (Figure 1, Figure 2).
I asked everyone to consider how their favorite food incorporates the different food groups, then explained that each Little would be filling out a five-day meal plan (Figure 5) with their Bigs to plan how they could incorporate all five food groups into one meal each day. The first words that came out of one of the children’s mouths were: “There is no way I’m doing that!”, but the rest of the children did not mind filling out the meal plan, and some seemed to really enjoy it. The Bigs thought that this was a great lesson to incorporate into the program, and different groups called me over to help them brainstorm different foods that they could add into their meal plan.
I think having the children work one-on-one with their Bigs rather than in a large group was an effective way to complete the activity because the Bigs helped their Littles stay focused and each received individual attention. This way, I could run the event by myself, which also made organizing the event easier since I did not have to work around multiple people’s schedules. Overall, the educational component of the event went smoothly, but the children became hungry quickly!
By table, the children were sent up to make salsa and yogurt parfaits. Setting up the ingredients in a line was an efficient way for the kids to fill their bowls with salsa ingredients, then people lined up at two prepared blender stations which my little, Marianna, and I ran. Everyone loved the salsa and was happy that each person could add the ingredients they wanted, rather than each person eating the same salsa with ingredients they might not like. The Bigs also made salsa which I did not plan for, but it turned out to be a great way for the Littles to bond with their Bigs, and, for the most part, there was enough ingredients for everyone to make salsa.
The yogurt was finished quickly and the children did not even miss the lemonade they normally drink because they liked the flavored water, then the children were ready for the next activity. Most chose to play outside like they normally do, but about ten of the children decided to stay inside to plant herbs and vegetables. Since not every person decided to garden, the children who stayed were able to plant multiple seeds, which they were very excited about. They also appreciated the instructions for replanting the seeds because many had not planted herb or vegetable seeds before. This activity was messy, but I think children had the most fun gardening out of all the activities. Overall, I believe this event was a great opportunity for Ohio Wesleyan to connect with Delaware residents through the school system and through support of local growers, and this event successfully promoted healthy eating, family bonding and community support.
The children were very hungry at the beginning of the event, so if this event is replicated, it might be a good idea to try to do the snack portion first. However, it might be hard for the children to re-focus after making snacks.
Rather than making three separate flavors of waters, if the event was replicated I would suggest just making three pitchers of strawberry, lime and mint water because this was the water the children enjoyed the most.
We ran out of garlic, cilantro and chips toward the end of the event and we had extra jalapeños. For 25 Littles and their Bigs, the following quantites of ingredients would be an appropriate amount: 6 cans of tomatoes, 6 green peppers, 2 onions, 2 bundles of cilantro, 4 jalapeños, 1 chili powder can, and 6 bags of chips. For efficiency, three or four blender stations would be better. We also ran out of yogurt quickly because I assumed only the Littles would be making parfaits, so in the future I would ask Chartwells for enough yogurt and ingredients for 50 people.
We ran out of pots because the children who did plant wanted to plant three or four different seeds, so asking for 35 pots might be a better number.
I did not print out a sheet explaining where the ingredients for the snacks came from, so to encourage parents to buy from Delaware County Community Market, if this event was replicated it would be helpful to include in the packet the location of Delaware County Community Market, their website address, the type of food they carry and the organizations that they donate to.
Anna Wildermuth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Anna is the Delaware County Program Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio who planned the event date with me.
Barbara Wiehe (email@example.com)
Barbara is the OWU greenhouse manager. She donated the pots, seeds and soil for the gardening activity.
Dr. Chris Fink (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr. Fink is the advisor of the Cooking Matters program. I contacted him by email and he put me in contact with Sierra Wright.
Sierra Wright (email@example.com)
Sierra is the Program Coordinator for Dr. Fink’s Cooking Matters program. She met with me to brainstorm ideas for the project.
Tad Petersen (TPetersen@mtso.edu)
Tad is the food service and farm manager at Seminary Hill Farm. I reached out to him to determine if MTSO would like to donate any food for this event, but he never followed up after we agreed to meet.
Bob Sullivan-Neer (1-740-610-0091)
Bob works at Delaware County Community Market and helped me determine an appropriate amount of ingredients to buy.
“Cooking Matters @ OWU Health & Kinetics.” Sustainability & Environment @ OWU, 19 Nov. 2014, http://sustainability.owu.edu/?p=316. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
This website describes what the Cooking matters program is and provides Dr. Fink’s contact information.
“Serving Up MyPlate A Yummy Curriculum.” Choose MyPlate, https://www.fns.usda.gov/ sites/default/files/sump_level3.pdf. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
This packet describes what MyPlate is and explains the subcategories of vegetables and grains in detail. It also provides the five-day dinner menu plan.
“My Plate at Home.” Choose MyPlate, https://choosemyplate-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/ files/audiences/MyPlateAtHome-adults.pdf. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
This is a handout for parents describing the importance of interacting with their children when planning healthy meals. It gives examples of a balanced dinner and explains the importance of exercise.
Shah, Vrushabh; Brill, Michelle F. Cooking Brings Kids and Families Together. Visions 24(4): 1.
Research shows that cooking with children helps children establish healthy eating routines, helps to alleviate behavior problems and encourages family “togetherness.”
“Salsa.” PBS, http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/salsa/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.
This is a salsa recipe with instructions geared towards children.