Food Agriculture & Nutrition Network of Solano County
By: Allison Williams, Napa State Hospital Dietetic Intern
Research has consistently demonstrated that young children truly thrive in a hands-on learning environment where they are provided with the opportunity to touch, smell, and taste. In turn, these interested students are more motivated and successful. During this critical time of growth, forming a positive experience with fresh and healthy foods is critical primarily because these foods are the foundational building blocks for good nutrition and overall healthy development.
Implementing cooking lessons into the classroom allows children to develop a positive connection to different types of foods including fruits and vegetables. In addition, exposure to different foods and the skills required to purchase and prepare them provides these students the opportunity to develop a multitude of skills which can be carried with them into the future. During each cooking lesson, children are not only being exposed to new nutrition-laden foods, they are developing talents such as reading, following directions, and measuring. Getting involved in cooking can aid in developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and concepts of math and science.
In addition to exposure to healthy new foods and skills, these cooking lessons provide an opportunity to educate children on the nutrients found within each of the foods being utilized. During each cooking lesson a child is exposed to basic knowledge on vitamins and minerals that are in each of the individual foods, and how they benefit their bodies. The educational opportunities are endless!
This exposure and developed affinity for healthy food choices will ultimately permeate throughout the entire family unit. From the information obtained during these lessons, children can work together with their parents or guardians in creating a shopping list and participate in grocery shopping; strengthening the child’s autonomy while creating a stronger family bond.
Further, studies have shown that children who are involved with and exposed to the preparation and cooking process are less likely to be picky eaters. The confidence obtained from involvement will likely decrease the obstacles that caused the child to become a picky eater. In turn, the child will be more willing to try unfamiliar foods and improve their nutrition status.
According to the CDC, over the last 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents. Studies show that low-income communities are less likely to have access to nutritious foods. In order to battle childhood obesity, programs such as NEOP (Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention) provide critical help. NEOP is a program in California working to improve the health of low-income Californians through education regarding healthy foods and physical activity.
Various organizations within Solano County have taken the initiative to tackle childhood obesity. Heathy Cooking with Kids, Inc. is just one of the several programs within NEOP that is promoting healthy living and reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity by providing cooking lessons to children and youth. Through programs such as Healthy Cooking with Kids, Inc., Solano County can continue to empower children and youth to make healthy, nutritious food choices for themselves, and can spread the messages of healthy eating to families and friends. Together we can make small steps to reach further goals in battling childhood obesity.
Childhood Obesity Facts. (2015, August 27). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
Children and Weight Coalition of Solano County. (2015). Retrieved from University of California Cooperative Extension: http://cesolano.ucanr.edu/C-W/
Cooking Class Benefits Kids in Many Ways. (2011, November 10). Retrieved from US News : http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/11/10/cooking-class-benefits-kids-in-many-ways