Updates for Nutrition Education
Over 47 million low-income Americans depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase food. In the District of Columbia, one in eight families battles hunger and chronic food insecurity. The House Farm bill (HR 2642) proposed a nearly $39 billion decrease in spending for the SNAP program over the next 10 years and starting November 1st, recipients of SNAP saw a cut to their benefits.
With all these numbers thrown around, what are the actual implications on people’s daily lives? This is the question that I want to explore during my month-long SNAP challenge. The average SNAP recipient received around $135 per month prior to November 1st. After the cuts, they will now only receive $124 per month.
What is the value of $11? Two cappuccinos and a brownie? Or perhaps fresh fruits and vegetables for your kids?
During these four weeks in November, I will be doing all my food shopping at four of our Healthy Corners stores spread across Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8. The areas that these corner stores are located in are considered food desserts where residents lack access to affordable fresh foods. My first stop is Buxton Glory International Market on Georgia Avenue in Northeast. I planned out my menu for this week which is repetitive but nutritious and I will to use my crock pot to help me prepare two soups while I’m at work:
Buxton Glory carries quite a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables supplied by DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners program and a local farmer. On my trip to the store, I spent $22.68 on tomatoes, green peppers, garlic, onion, spinach, cucumber, pears, bananas, and dried goods. There is still $8.32 left of my weekly food budget to spend on another trip to the store to round out my meals for the week. I hope I can make the money stretch!
Truck Farm is back! Last week DC Central Kitchen staff prepared the truck for its third year as a traveling, edible garden exhibit aimed at introducing the city’s youth to gardening and fresh, healthy foods. The bed of our Truck Farm is now growing carrots, snap peas, bush beans, lemon thyme, purple sage and about twenty other vegetables and herbs.
We’d like to thank our financial sponsors, the Aetna Foundation and the 15 Foundation, for making this work possible. More thanks to Old City Farm and Guild for donating seedlings for last week’s planting and Johnson Florist and Garden Center for donating supplies.
During this year’s growing season, we will be taking the Truck Farm to visit kids at the youth agencies, schools, and Healthy Corners stores that we serve, as well as city farmers markets. During each visit we’ll introduce kids to gardening and show them that it really is possible to grow your own food right here in the city. Each hands on session allows kids to touch, smell and even taste fresh veggies and herbs.
The Truck Farm is an important part of our wrap-around approach to ending childhood hunger. The program generates enthusiasm about eating fresh foods and increases participation in the healthy, scratch-cooked meals we deliver to ten DC schools in Ward 5, 7, and 8 by using lessons to generate enthusiasm about the fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays.
Make room in that kitchen, mom and dad. Pre-Kindergarten students at Walker Jones Education Campus are learning that you’re never too young to help cook a healthy meal. On Tuesday mornings, three and four year-old students will participate in hands-on cooking lessons in the Walker Jones Food Lab.
Starting in January 2013, DC Central Kitchen’s chefs Ed Kwitowski and Christina Brown along with Katie Nash, R.D., will teach weekly lessons to WJA students simple cooking and baking techniques. The team will use kid-friendly recipes featuring fresh fruits and vegetables in weekly lessons. In early January, students in the first class rolled up their sleeves and learned to make “Smashed Bean Burritos,” mashing beans and salsa in Ziploc bags to fill and bake burritos.
The lessons also give WJA an opportunity to extend its Food Lab, a classroom dedicated to teaching the basics of cooking and nutrition, to the younger students. The Food Lab incorporates the school’s urban farm into its curriculum to educate children about their food sources. Ultimately, DC Central Kitchen and Walker Jones are aiming to encourage students to try new foods and empower them to cook healthy meals in their kitchens at home.
Think back to when you were in school. Did you ever get to try grilled BBQ beef bulgogi? How about curried chick peas, cauliflower gratin, red cabbage coleslaw, roasted beets, whole wheat bread stuffing, or Asia- style Brussels slaw? Before DC Central Kitchen produced meals for DC Public Schools, many of the kids had never tried whole grain pasta or raw kale.
We’ve learned that cultivating adventurous eaters, ones who are willing to give anything an honest try, takes time, repeated exposure, and a little one-on-one attention. And when healthy food is prepared the right way, most kids will give it a try! Kids get really excited about trying a specially prepared sample in an individual cup served to them by one of our chefs!
When the kids learn about a new food they like, they often talk about it at home. They ask their parents to provide the same food they’re getting at school. But if they live far from an affordable grocery store, it’s often hard to make those healthy meals at home. This is why we’ve partnered with 30 DC corner stores to bring many of the fresh ingredients and healthy snacks to their neighborhoods.
We’ve learned through our work at DC Public Schools that most kids want to eat healthy, but they aren’t being exposed to a variety of healthy food prepared in kid-friendly ways. This means going beyond simply providing vegetables as a side, to planning a variety of thoughtfully prepared dishes to give kids a wider palate. By cultivating adventurous eaters, we’re actually setting kids up to eat healthier for the rest of their lives.
You can join us to create brighter futures for DC families. Visit our Donate page and invest in our effort to push nutritional barriers and promote health in DC neighborhoods.
Here at DC Central Kitchen, it’s obvious that we take food seriously. However, did you know that we are also cultivating hundreds of young gourmands across the city?
Through our Healthy Returns program, we send free meals and healthy snacks to around 30 agencies that serve low-income children and teens every day.
These are scratch-cooked, healthy dinners that introduce kids to new foods through our weekly Health and Wellness with DCCK series. We also provide the agencies with nutrition education and cooking classes.
On Food Day 2012, we brought the “Eat Real” message to two Healthy Returns agencies. Kids worked together in hands-on activities to learn about the differences between processed and whole foods.
Using materials from the Food Day website, each student made an Eat Real Action Plan for the next week. Kids confessed that they had never really thought much about processed foods before, and the information was challenging!
We at DC Central Kitchen are proud to Eat Real. We hope that our work sets DC kids on the path for a healthy, happy future.