- Author: Deepa Srivastava
UCCE in Kings County leverages community partnerships to increase preschoolers awareness about healthy foods
Early childhood is critical to the development of lifelong healthy living. With this intent, UCCE, in partnership with the Department of Hospitality Management at West Hills Community College-Lemoore and preschools located at the college campus, embraced a collaborative approach to promote healthy eating by helping preschoolers learn about and taste Go Glow Grow foods.
Together, we can make a difference!
An innovative and collaborative integration of research and practice brought diverse stakeholders together.
- Deepa Srivastava, UCCE Advisor Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences from Tulare/Kings initiated the needs assessment, monitored evaluation process, and conducted focus groups.
- Susan Lafferty, Nutrition Educator of Kings County UC CalFresh nutrition education program implemented the Go Glow Grow curriculum.
- Nancy Jeffcoach, Site Supervisor of West Hills Child Development Center, Lemoore planned the timeline for preschoolers who received the curriculum.
- Christian Raia, Program Director /Coordinator Hotel Restaurant Casino Management Faculty-West Hills College planned and supported the culinary students' implementation of food demonstrations, taste tests, and recipe sharing. The reinforcement of Go Glow Grow MyPlate food group concepts was integrated into students' capstone project.
During April and May 2019, collaborative partnership efforts captivated preschoolers' attention with key MyPlate messages and taste tests. Susan Lafferty led six weeks of the Go Glow Grow curricula with 72 preschoolers. Twelve community college students from the culinary department shared recipes and conducted food demonstrations and taste tests. Nine preschool teachers consistently supported the program. Preschoolers received a graduation certificate and a chefs hat upon completing the program.
“Glow foods make my hair grow, eyes sparkle, and skin soft."
Initial success stories, lesson observations, and activities indicated increased knowledge of preschoolers about MyPlate food groups and willingness to try foods from all food groups. A majority of preschoolers responded to the importance of eating Go Glow Grow food.
Taking home key messages
It also seems the preschoolers are taking key messages home. One preschool teacher mom shared this story:
So [preschooler name] is eating her dinner and she looks up at me and says, "ya know, chicken isn't on my plate."
"Um, yes it is, it's right there..."
"No," she says,"it's not anywhere on My Plate!"
"Oh, like the healthy choices My Plate? Yes it is, it's protein. I think it's red."
"Red is fruit momma, it's a glow food!"
So at this point I pull up the graphic. She is right–that it would be purple as a protein. She informs me that I should study it. But she'll help me and show me where the vegetables are as she loudly chews a cucumber in my ear. She's been telling me which foods have which vitamins and bringing the conversation to the table at every meal.
"You guys are doing amazing things. I see it in my program and now I get to see it in my child. So thank you!"
Positive learning experiences result from meaningful interaction
Upon completion of the program, two focus groups were conducted to understand the program impact at the individual and environmental levels of the social-ecological model. It was encouraging to note the response from participating community college students about their learning experiences and the changes that they have observed for themselves and the preschoolers as a result of this program.
A majority of the students indicated that they “loved” Go Glow Grow concepts of MyPlate and the meaningful “interaction” with the preschoolers.
A sustainable foundation is established
Overall, “mutually reinforcing goals, collective impact, commitment, trust, consistency, strong partnerships and communication, curriculum, evaluation tools”- all factored in to keep the momentum for the community partners.
What began as a needs assessment to examine the nutrition practices of early childhood education settings, ended on a promising note to continue promoting the health and well-being of young children. Indeed, a strong and sustainable foundation is established to carry forward UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' strategic initiative of healthy families and communities.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“This initiative reduces hunger among children in high-poverty areas, and ensures students have access to the healthy food they need to succeed in school,” USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said during Tuesday's visit to Edison Computech Middle School in Fresno.
“About 20 percent of U.S. households with children were food insecure at some time in 2013 – meaning they had trouble affording enough food to eat,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC Nutrition Policy Institute.
The new provision allows school districts to serve all of their students at no charge to the students, reducing the districts' paperwork for the school meal program. It also removes the stigma that deterred some students from accepting the needed nourishment.
“One of the largest and most accessible means to reduce food insecurity in children and improve their diet is the federal school lunch and breakfast programs,” said Ritchie. “Research has shown that school meals are healthier than most meals that students get elsewhere. For these reasons, we are highly supportive of the Community Eligibility Provision, which makes it easier for the kids who need it the most to have access to healthy meals at school.”
“It is wonderful to see that Fresno Unified School District has jumped on the brand new opportunity that the Community Eligibility Provision offers to bring nutritious meals and snacks to all of its students without charge,” Kenneth Hecht, director of policy for the UC Nutrition Policy Institute.
“More than four out of five families of Fresno Unified School District's 75,000 students have such low-incomes that they qualify for free or reduced-price meals,” Hecht said. “Many students' families are not English-language households, and the school district has been struggling — effectively — to improve its dropout and graduation rates. Free school meals are a major element in the district's successful effort to improve student success: nutritious free meals bring children to school, contribute to their health and academic performance and let families spend the money they save when their children can eat at school to improve the nutrition quality of the meals that are prepared at home.”
In addition to being able to serve more students, Fresno Unified School District's seven-year-old, state-of-the-art kitchen enables school chefs to prepare all meals and snacks within the district, according to Hecht. “This means food can be freshly prepared, without relying on preprocessed foods that often include fats, sugars and other unhealthy additives that contribute to childhood obesity,” he said, adding, “Children in Fresno County experience a more than 40 percent rate of overweight and obesity.”
“Not surprisingly food insecurity can result in lower diet quality,” said Ritchie. “For example, in a new study to be published in the Journal of Nutrition, we found that higher levels of food insecurity among children was related to increased consumption of energy, fat and sugar, and a lower intake of vegetables. Food insecurity can also have negative behavioral and cognitive effects.”
During Concannon's visit to Computech, members of the UC CalFresh nutrition education team met and got a photo of the USDA under secretary touring the kitchen.
“We were present due to UC CalFresh's close partnership with the district,” said Shelby MacNab, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition program manager in Fresno County. “We teach nutrition and are leading the Smarter Lunchrooms movement (SLM). Computech was our pilot site and the district was thrilled with the outcome. The undersecretary said SLM was music to his ears.”