In Sacramento, California, kids are eating their vegetables! I run a grassroots nonprofit, Food Literacy Center, teaching 800 kids a week in eight low-income schools to love their veggies. We reach them through hands-on cooking and nutrition classes with repeated exposure to new produce.
Food Literacy Center often gets the credit when our students start eating more vegetables as a result of our program. But we don’t do this alone. Our program is designed so kids will go home, healthy recipe in hand, and teach their parents what they’ve learned.
Meet one of our Super-Moms, Evonne!
When her daughter, Pear, started food literacy classes in first grade, Evonne listened and learned, too. Today, the mother and daughter love cooking together. They’re eating more vegetables and making healthy changes to their diet.
Calling her daughter her biggest food inspiration, Evonne said that ever since Pear started classes three years ago, her awareness for healthy food has become a part of their family’s lifestyle. She reads nutrition facts while grocery shopping and pushes Evonne about the food she is consuming.
“She became a constant daily reminder of why I should be careful of what I put in my body and that we really are what we eat,” said Evonne.
Evonne feels that food literacy not only benefits the lives of children but it also helps to open parents’ minds to trying new, healthy foods. She said that most adults like herself tend to stick to vegetables they had growing up or have completely given up on vegetables they were forced to eat as a child. Through the Food Literacy Center, they are exposed to new and fun ways to create dishes that are healthy and extremely delicious.
This is critical in a community where only 4% of kids eat their veggies and almost 40% are obese. This results in a number of diet-related diseases, like childhood obesity. By learning to cook and eat more veggies, Evonne and Pear are preventing obesity altogether. This is one of the most important things we can do for our health!
The story of Pear and Evonne goes both ways. Pear used to be a picky eater before starting food literacy classes. Nowadays, if she is uncertain about a new fruit or vegetable, Evonne will remind her that the foods she used to say “never” to have become something she loves when she tried them in class. Evonne reinforces food literacy lessons at home whenever the opportunity arises. They shop at the farmers market and Pear gets her hands dirty in the garden when she visits her grandmothers. Instead of eating fast food, they now recreate their favorite items at home using healthy alternatives such as whole wheat tortillas. Most importantly, they make sure to add a vegetable to every meal and a fruit with breakfast and lunch.
As a busy working parent, Evonne understands that everyone can be extremely tired at the end of the day. However, cooking dinner as a family can be a bonding experience as well as a learning opportunity for the kids.
“Having the children be hands-on in the kitchen helps them explore new foods and become more open to trying new things (because they cooked it) and it gives us parents more help in the kitchen,” Evonne said.
Evonne might even have a future professional chef on her hands as Pear continually demonstrates her passion and fascination for food and cooking. She is affectionately called “Chef Pear” by our team at Food Literacy Center.