During summer months when school is out, additional stress is often placed on families already struggling to meet day to day needs. Suddenly, children home from school need breakfast and lunch – not just dinner. For the most desperate among us, this can mean a time when working parents are juggling the added expenses not just of food, but of child care, back-to-school shopping for fall, and more.
This summer, Gleaners is expanding our Summer Meals for Kids program to 16 counties – an increase from the 10 we served last summer. We’re also expanding the way we serve these children, using multiple outreach efforts to help families bridge the gap when school is out. Click here to learn more about the Summer Meals for Kids program.
In addition to broadening food distribution, Gleaners is also working to foster excitement around good nutrition and provide opportunities for kids to explore and take home fresh fruits and vegetables through a pilot program called Summer Nutrition Club.
The nutrition education program will run for three weeks at three different summer BackSack sites in Marion County. The curriculum was designed by Gleaners’ own Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Sarah Huber, and includes fun and interactive lessons that teach children to fuel their bodies with healthy foods from all five groups of MyPlate.
The students are also encouraged to be “Nutrition Explorers” by using all of their senses to experience a different fresh fruit or vegetable each week. The program kicked off last week with a lesson on the superpowers of different colored fruits and vegetables and a spotlight on green bell peppers. Most of the kids had seen this shiny green vegetable before, but after investigating the peppers outside and inside, many of the kids discovered something new about the food. For example, one group of boys had never seen the cluster of tiny seeds on the inside of a bell pepper. They asked their teacher if they could keep some of the seeds to see if they would grow into pepper plants in their on-site garden, and she gladly agreed.
In addition, 14 of the 47 children who participated in Summer Nutrition Club last week tried a green pepper for the very first time, and a majority reported that they enjoyed it. In fact, one young girl raised her hand with a smile and said, “Today I learned that you can’t judge a vegetable by how it looks because you might actually like how it tastes!”
Stay tuned next month for more Summer Nutrition Club stories, pictures, and outcomes, as well as a closer look into our BackSacks program that serves more than 9,000 children each week during the school year!