I’ve always had an interest in food culture, as a child and even as an adult today. When I was told about the program being started at the Shack Neighborhood House called “Carrot Sticks”, I initially thought of educating children on the importance of carrots related to nutrition. Then, once I was in contact with the coordinator, Mandy, at the Shack, I realized that the program is a so-called blank canvas for us to work with. So, I immediately thought of food culture and nutrition for children to be exposed to different foods and different preparation techniques. My preceptor came up with the idea of smoothies from Asia. So, prior to the beginning of the program I prepared two food guide pyramid handouts of various Asian countries. Each handout had 5-6 food guide pyramids. The programs were to meet once a week for 6 weeks. The program was comprised of three groups of students. Each group met for 45 min starting at 9:15am and ended at 11:30am. The three groups of children were kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders. All of the classes were held outside in a pavilion at picnic tables with little room for physical activities. The first lesson we decided on was on Japan and started on July 3, 2012.
I began each class with an introduction of myself and Rileigh Johnson. I told the class that we were here to talk to everyone about food culture and nutrition.
I began this lesson with an open discussion about what the children normally eat for breakfast. I explained to the class how breakfast is really important because what we eat first thing in the morning gives us our energy for the day and makes us feel good. I told the class that there are easy ways to remember what is good to eat for your body. Then, I introduced the food guide MyPlate. I held up a poster of the MyPlate and asked the children if they had ever seen this before. We then went over each food group, as a class. I asked the class if they could name examples of food from each food group starting with milk/dairy, protein/meat, vegetable, fruit, grain, and fats. Children listed common examples like cheese and milk for dairy, chicken, fish, and hamburger for protein, broccoli and corn for vegetable, strawberries and blueberries for fruit, cereal and pasta for grain, and butter for fats.
Then I asked the class to name fruits and vegetables based on their different colors. For example “Can anyone tell me what some red fruits are?”, “Can you name some green vegetables?”, etc. I discussed with the class that fruits and vegetables are important in summer time because they hold more water in them than other food groups on our MyPlate. Then, as a class we discussed what dehydration is. I asked the class if anyone knew what being dehydrated was. I discussed how we get dehydrated and why. I asked the class if anyone gets sleepy or cranky when they’re too hot. I then told them that the reason you feel like that when you’re too hot is because you’re dehydrated. I asked the children what are some ways that we get dehydrated. They replied with answers like “riding my bike”, “swimming”, and “playing basketball”.
Then I asked the class ways they could think of to stay cool and make sure we don’t get dehydrated. The class raised their hands and replied with “drinking water” and “eat more fruit and veggies”. I also reminded them that drinking fruit juices, eating snow cones, and eating popsicles could also make sure we don’t get dehydrated in the heat. At this point is when I introduced the Japanese food guide pyramid. I asked them to look at Japan’s food guide pyramid and compare it to our MyPlate. Each class was quiet at first, when I asked this question. So, I asked them “What about the shapes? Is Japan’s food guide shaped differently than our MyPlate?”. The children responded to this and prompted them to also notice the difference in colors and how Japan eats more fruits and vegetables compared to our food guide.
Our initial activity was essentially a physical activity that required more space than what we anticipated. But once we got to the Shack Neighborhood House and realized that we only had the space provided in a pavilion, we had to improvise. So, we decided to embrace the summer Olympics and Rileigh instructed the children in Karate and how to administer front kicks, sidekicks, etc. We told the children that this was a common practice of the Japanese and that it was especially important because of the Olympics. Each child was also given a food passport that I assembled prior to the program. These food passports had a cover sheet to put their name on and each page was to enter each country we discuss each week, what they learned from the lesson, and what food we talked about associated with a different country. The junior volunteers kept these for each student so they wouldn’t lose them.
The snack we provided was a green tea smoothie. The smoothie consisted of ice, green tea, and frozen mixed fruit. We told the children that they could choose 2 fruits to be in their smoothie. They had a choice from blueberry, strawberry, peach, blackberry, or raspberry. We also provided straws, plastic spoons, paper cups, napkins, and sanitizer. As we prepared the smoothies, I asked the children if anyone ever heard of green tea. I asked the class where green tea grew from and what color did they think it was. We talked about the health benefits of green tea and explained what antioxidants were. I also discussed with the class how green tea helped prevent us from becoming sick and fought off colds.
Overall, I really enjoyed the lesson. The children seemed to be genuinely interested in the material that we covered. They were interacting with one another about the smoothies and with Rileigh and me as well. They really enjoyed the smoothie process and asked questions about how to use blenders and what each fruit was. This is exactly why I’ve always enjoyed food culture.