Communicating Food Education & Mealtime to Families

One of my core beliefs is that we need to integrate food education into our programs. If we are serving snacks and meals then we have a captive audience to talk about food! Now there are many things that I could say about my beliefs surround food education but today’s focus is some simple ways that we can communicate to families how we approach meal time. The way you approach mealtimes will likely change and I encourage you to keep thinking about your approach. I know my teaching practices shifted radically after I attended a week-long VT FEED training at my children’s school in 2011. There is no one-size-fits-all and therefore your approach might vary from mine, but this is how I frame meal time in my program. If you utilize the food program or work in a center be sure that your views match the guidelines in place. This blog post is written with the audience of families in mind, and I welcome you to ‘cut and paste’ & edit it for your own newsletters or print materials that you share with the families in your programs.

person holding black and brown food tray

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Research shows that a child needs up to 15 exposures before they will begin to like a new food, and if you are like me it’s hard to keep buying foods that I am not sure my child will eat. So here at Utopia Child Care we are working on becoming ‘adventurous eaters’, and each month we offer a wide variety of foods for your child to sample. It’s important to us that you child try new foods but at no time do we require any child to eat the foods we serve. Some of our approaches include:

  • We communicate to children the concepts “I don’t like it yet” and explain that as children get older they often begin to like more foods. Most young children want to be ‘big kids’ and sometimes this frame of mind helps them embrace the adventure.
  • We have a rule at meal time: “Don’t yuck my yum”. This simple phrase helps children learn to be respectful of other children’s food preferences and sets the tone that we can each like different foods.
  • We ask staff to avoid giving negative comments about particular foods or food groups.
  • Food is never used as a reward or as a punishment.
  • We will explore the “The Two Bite Club” and will be sending home a book for you to read with your child (see link below). This book is published by the USDA and explains MyPlate, food groups, and suggests that children try two bites of a new food.
  • We serve food family style which means that each child is able to serve themselves from dishes. This gives us the opportunity to explore making sure there is enough for every child, serving the amount that we think we will eat, and knowing that there is plenty for all of us. And yes, it does get messy, especially on spaghetti day, but it is an important motor skill to learn.
  • We teach about manners and how to use a napkin.
  • We also learn how to have an ongoing conversation with our friends at the table without talking over each other. There are no digital distractions during mealtime.
  • And best of all….we get to build community while we share a delicious meal.

 

Additional thoughts for providers ~~

Diversity and respect – as providers and educators it is essential that we honor the choices that a family makes about food. Families may have religious, ethical, medical, environmental, or spiritual reasons for choosing to eat they way they do at their home. Whether or not we are able to provide their needs is a conversation to have PRIOR to the child starting in a program. It is through open communication that parents can decide if what the program offers meets their needs.

Clean Plate Award – it’s engrained into our brains not to waste food, but more current research suggests that we teach children to listen to their bodies when they are full.

Garden- children who have access to picking fresh veggies from a garden (especially one they help plant and care for) will eat foods they have never tried. Their excitement about harvesting and connecting in the garden opens up their food palate like no other trick I know!

Compost- teach children where our trash, recycling, and compost go after we are done with a meal. Our food scraps, if composted, can be turned back into soil and the cycle begins again. Though the broccoli is still better off in your tummy then in the compost bin! J

“Outside Food” – the food struggle is real and parents will want to bring in food from the fast food joint they pass on the way to your program or extra snacks or special treats because it’s Tuesday. Picture the scenario from the parent’s point of view. They are running late and need to grab a cup of coffee before work, so they negotiate with their slow poke three year old that if they hurry up and get into the car they can have a treat. Been there, done that as a parent. The path of least resistance involves a munchkin from Dunkin or a breakfast sandwich from the drive through. If you do not want to allow ‘outside food’ into your program my suggestions is to have a clear written policy in your handbook that you consistently reinforce.

 “Two Bite Club” is an educational storybook published through the USDA. It is now available in English and in Spanish, was introduces “MyPlate” to young children. The cartoon characters model trying foods from every food group by eating just two bites, and there is a certificate at the back of the book for kids who take on the challenge as well. This book is now available as an eBook, can be downloaded as PDF, or ordered for FREE from this link https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/two-bite-club-english-and-spanish

 

 

Don’t just take my word for it…for further reading:

“Creating the Nutritionally Purposeful Classroom” (2014) https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/ycyoungchildren.69.5.8.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

“Autonomy at mealtime: Building healthy food preference and eating behaviors in young children” from the Early Childhood Education Journal (1996) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02430547

Check out the amazing resources published by VT FEED – Vermont Food Education Every Day and its parent organizations Shelburne Farms and NOFA-VT  https://vtfeed.org/feed-resource-library

 

Advertisements

Farm to School & Early Ed Resources

 

IMG_0504.jpg

Growing Minds Preschool Toolkit

http://growing-minds.org/farm-preschool-toolkit/

“All of our farm to preschool resources are compiled into our new Farm to Preschool Toolkit. The toolkit contains all of our preK lesson plans, “This Week in the Garden” activity guides, and “Farm to School Goes Home” weekly newsletters. It also includes sourcing guidance, tips for cooking with young children, and more!” Note: I sent mine to Staples to be printed since it is 210 pages and it cost me $16.

 

Multicultural Collection of Farm to ECE Books –

http://www.pareadysetgrow.org/book-list/?ct=t(Ready_Set_Grow11_28_2017)&mc_cid=93d78583de&mc_eid=b7c5f86429

“The Food Trust’s multicultural collection of farm to ECE books highlights children’s books that feature characters from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, many of which are authored by writers of color. The list also includes a number of books that are either bilingual or written exclusively in Spanish. These books cover a wide variety of farm to ECE related topics including gardening, farms, cooking, family meals, farmers markets, shopping for food and more.”

 

Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package

https://www.iatp.org/files/2014_07_16_F2CC_Curriculum_f.pdf

“Inside this curriculum package, you will find activity ideas and resources for implementing Farm to Childcare at your childcare center. Many of these resources are ready to use, while some are examples that offer opportunities for you to customize to your own context. Lesson planning charts are provided to help you introduce the children at your center to locally grown food items and concepts.” Note: I sent mine to Staples to be printed since it is 176 pages and it cost me $15.

 

Cultivating Joy and Wonder: Educating for Sustainability in Early Childhood through Nature, Food, and Community

https://shelburnefarms.org/our-work/resources/cultivatingjoyandwonder

“Engaging activities, essays, and resources that encourage children to explore and engage in the world around them. The book is the fruit of Shelburne Farms’ years of experience in early childhood education and sustainability, both on the Farm and with partners at the Sustainability Academy and King Street Center in Burlington, Vermont”

 

My First Garden

http://rodaleinstitute.org/myfirstgarden/assets/pdf/rodale-hshs-program.pdf

“Rodale Institute, the birthplace of the organic movement, has put together this resource “My First Garden,” to help teachers integrate school gardens into their classroom curriculum. This curriculum is designed for preschool or kindergarten children, but could be adapted to suit early elementary school needs.”

 

A Roadmap for Farm to Early Care and Education: A Guide to Understanding Farm to School Opportunities in Early Care and Education Settings

http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/Roadmap_FarmtoECE.pdf

 

 

National Farm to School Network – Database of hundreds of resources

http://www.farmtoschool.org/resources

 

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Farm to School

http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/ESSA_Toolkit.pdf

“In 2015, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and it includes many new opportunities for the integration of farm to school and ECE activities in educational settings. This toolkit is designed for educators, advocates, parents, and farm to school and ECE stakeholders to understand and act upon the opportunities ESSA provides.”

 

Farm to Preschool: Farm Field Trips (By EcoTrust)

http://www.farmtopreschool.org/pdf/states/or/State_OR_Howtohostapre-kfarmfieldtrip_v2.pdf

“Short guide to planning a preschool field trip to a farm, includes information on finding a farmer, example trip schedule, and supply list.”

 

Benefits of Farm to School (Fact Sheet)

http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/BenefitsFactSheet.pdf

“Farm to school programs provide a variety of benefits to students, parents, schools, communities and farmers. This fact sheet offers a research-based overview of the benefits of farm to school and a list of sources. (Updated April 2017)”

 

Growing Healthy Kids through Farm to Child Care

http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/phlc%20fs%20Growing%20Healthy%20Kids%20through%20F2CC%20Oct%202014.pdf

“Next to parents, child care providers can be some of the most influential people in helping children get a strong, healthy start in life. The Public Health Law Center has developed a series of resources designed to inform and support efforts to cultivate child care settings that promote healthy eating, active play opportunities, reduced screen time, and tobacco-free environments. This fact sheet explains the Farm to Child Care movement and provides tips for child care providers about how to incorporate fresh, local food and healthy food education into their programs”

 

 IMG_4506.jpg