“The Shack” Neighborhood House & Nutrition

Mary and I had the opportunity today to visit The Shack.  Since we will be giving a cooking demo and nutrition lesson to the 3rd & 4th graders next week, we thought it’d be a good idea to check out The Shack’s kids, the families it serves, the current nutrition, and assess any needs.  We spent the morning with 9 Kindergarteners, Caleb (the counselor), and 2 “JVs” or Junior Volunteers who are 7th-12th grade students.  It was fun (& draining!) to get to know the kids. I played on the playground with the kids, where we watched a mole burrow a long tunnel; played monopoly; went to the sensory garden; and learned about new snacks.

The sensory garden was pretty cool. It’s an herb garden with mint, sage, basil, and other herbs I couldn’t recognize. The kindergardeners were encouraged to use their senses (smell, touch, see) to learn about the different herbs. Then they all got to pick a basil leaf to take inside.

This is where it got tricky (I love tricking kids into trying new foods! haha): Amanda told the kids they were each going to get a cracker, spread with cream cheese, and they could put their basil leaf on top, as well as with a slice of a Zima tomato (optional):

Now, after the kids tried their little basil/tomato/cream cheese cracker, they were asked if they liked it.  The kids were big fans of it! But then…muahaha the cream cheese was not cream cheese! It was Mascarpone cheese!

Other activities the kids did was smell different spices (dill, garlic, dried onion), learn about the word “fragrant”, and try a cheese/bean/tomato dip with crackers.

I also got to speak with the woman in charge of the breakfasts and lunches for all 140-180 kids at The Shack every day.

The June menu is below:

Basically, the lunches all have to include a grain (whole grain preferably), 2 oz of protein, 3/4 cup vegetables and fruits, and a milk choice (fat free chocolate milk, or fat free skim milk).  She emphasized that she tries to meet the guidelines while still serving food that kids will like (pizza & pizza rolls are their favorite lunches). The lunch we saw today was a grilled cheese sandwich (I noticed it was made with whole wheat bread), 1/4 cup pears, 1/2 cup french fries (count as a vegetable), and their milk.  The only person I saw taking a skim milk (80 calories)  instead of a chocolate milk (130 calories) was a counselor.  But, the skim milk is still there if kids want it!  Overall, I think they do a good job of including the necessary fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and protein, while still making the food “kid friendly.”

However, right after lunch, all the kids are allowed to have “free time” and pretty much intermingle with the other grades. They have the opportunity to play computer games inside, but the large majority of the kids were outside in 91*F weather, playing in the pool! I wish I could have jumped in there myself, to cool of! At any rate, about 30 minutes after lunch, a whistle blew and kids jumped out of the pool. I asked what that meant, and Caleb told me that every 20-30 minutes or so, they get the kids out of the pool for about 10 minutes, to calm them down (so things don’t get too rowdy, understandably). It also means the concession stand is open. 30 minutes after a complete lunch? What? Yes. Kids were lining up to buy pizza, pizza rolls, popcorn, beef sticks, ice cream, shaved ice, and more from the concession stand. Not really any healthy choices there. And there was a vending machine with soda and sugary sports drinks that kids were putting dollar bills into as well.

Now, I am not against concession stands. I buy fries, ice cream, shaved ice, and popcorn at amusement parks, fairs, and zoos myself.  But when kids know that they don’t have to eat their fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, or drink their milk, because just 30 minutes later they can have a lunch of icecream, hotdogs, and a 12oz bottle of Coca Cola each day? They’re not going to finish or fill up on their lunch.

If my nutrition dream could come true, I’d have all the soda in the vending machines replaced with waters, 100% juices, and/or diet sodas (all caffeine-free)…I’d add a fresh fruit salad (in a little dixie cup?) to the concession stand menu, and I’d delay the opening of the concession stand to at least 1.5-2 hours after lunch is served.  Just my thoughts! I think that way, kids would be more likely to eat their lunch because they know they won’t get to the concession stand in another 2 hours (as opposed to 20-30 minutes later), the sugar consumption would be reduced (no more sugary sodas), and there would be a healthy option at the concession stand, there if parents, counselors, guests, or kids are hungry.

I’ll see the kids next week, for our cooking demonstration, nutrition activity, and nutrition lesson. Pretty excited! I think it’ll go well. I mean, if I can handle kindergarteners, I can handle 3rd & 4th graders…right? 🙂

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Categories: Community Nutrition, Education in the Community | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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