MANISTEE — One of the biggest challenges parents and school food service directors sometimes face is getting children to eat a healthy diet.
Many times it comes from the simple fact that it is something they never have tried before, or an item that their family normally doesn’t purchase at home. Students taking part in the summer lunch program will have a good opportunity in the upcoming days to try some of those items thanks to the assistance of the District Health Department No. 10’s Cooking with Kids program.
The program is being supported this summer with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) education funding from the Michigan Fitness Foundation which is overseen by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
District Health Department No. 10 public health educator Holly Joseph said the children are going to get ample opportunity to try many new and different foods in the upcoming weeks.
“I will be here for 11 of the times they are having their lunch programs and will be trying to encourage them to try a lot of fruits and vegetables,” said Joseph. “It might be some things they haven’t tried and it just is to encourage them that all these things they haven’t tried will help them grow up healthy and strong. We also educate them on where the food comes from and why it is good for them.”
Manistee Area Public Schools Food Service director Keri Carlson said the program not only introduces children to new food items, but it also gives the food service department personnel a chance to see what foods they like or dislike.
“When Holly reached out to me about coming in to do the Cooking with Kids Program during our Summer Feeding Program, we were excited to have her and welcomed her into our kitchen,” said Carlson. “The vegetable and fruit taste testing she does with the children is a wonderful opportunity for them to try a bite and get feedback on what they like or dislike.”
Carlson said during the course of a school year they often get feedback from students when they try something new and this gives them a jump start on the upcoming school year.
“Sometimes children think they don’t like certain foods but really have never tried them,” said Carlson. “This gives them that chance. If children are exposed to new food items and enjoy them, when those same food options are available to them again they just might take a serving or two. It can be a wonderful thing when programs come together to expose children to new possibilities.”
Joseph said the students are more willing than people think to try new things and sometimes the program challenges them a little to try something new.
“We have fun with it,” said Joseph. “Some kids want to prove they can do it and others come to the realization that it is something they have never tried before and they like it now. I had feedback from one parent who said now she has to keep apricots in the house because her child never tried them before this program and she liked them.”