Blog post written by Abby Saunders, Gleaners Summer Nutrition Intern
Hi everyone! My name is Abby Saunders, and I am Gleaners’ 2023 Summer Nutrition Intern. This summer, I worked with Gleaners' Nutrition Manager to create and facilitate nutrition education lessons for kids through the Summer Nutrition Club (SNC) program. SNC was created in 2018 to complement Gleaners’ summer feeding program in Marion County. With the addition of SNC, we were able to not only provide nutritious food but also offer nutrition education to youth within the area. SNC provides interactive lesson plans to encourage children to explore new foods and learn about how food fuels their bodies.
Abby (left) and an SNC participant smile with their Lesson 1 snack
Through generous funding from the Summer Youth Program Fund (SYPF), we were able to provide 5 program sites with the option of in-person or virtual SNC lessons this summer. We taught lessons in-person at 4 sites and provided materials for 1 site to participate virtually, serving a total of 144 youth in the community. We taught a very diverse group this summer with ages of participants ranging from 5-15, making this summer especially exciting. It was so fun to watch the children step out of their comfort zone and try new foods while also growing their knowledge of nutrition. This summer at Gleaners was truly an amazing experience and I gained tons of valuable knowledge on nutrition education that will come in handy as I continue my journey to become a Registered Dietitian!
The SNC lessons focused on the 5 food groups of MyPlate, building balanced meals, and general health and wellness. This year's SNC theme was Nutrition Superheroes. Each week, the children met the different superhero food groups and learned about the “superpowers” each group provides for our bodies. Each lesson included hands-on activities to encourage learning about food groups and to explore foods beyond just tasting them.
Some of the "Nutrition Superheroes" who were introduced during SNC
This year, I aimed to encourage children to try new foods even if they were unsure whether they would like it. I wanted to show the children they can use their sense of sight, smell, and touch to examine foods in addition to tasting them. We also discussed the many different words that can be used to describe foods besides just saying a food is “good” or “bad”. We urged the children to take small bites of the foods offered and reassured them that it was okay if they did not like a particular food once they tried it. We were successful in meeting this goal as almost all of the children at each site at least tried the foods we offered at each of the three lessons. Multiple children stated that they learned that it was okay to try new foods after participating in SNC!
The recipes, learning concepts, and themes that were covered in this year’s program included:
SNC "Nutrition Superheroes" try their fruit & veggie snack
Youth learn about plant and animal protein foods with an active game (top) and build their own trail mix (bottom)
Making smoothies with ingredients from all 5 food groups (top) and showing off decorated aprons (bottom)
At the end of lesson 3, each child got to decorate their own SNC superhero apron that they could take home with them. Each child also got to take home a reusable shopping bag filled with different items to promote cooking at home and to encourage children to continue exploring new foods. Items in the bags included a spatula, veggie cutter, Gleaners fruit or vegetable stress ball, a small bag of popcorn, a small bag of roasted chickpeas, and a handout with information about Gleaners’ NutritionHub website. Smaller sites also received different bonus items which included a MyPlate, measuring cups, a cutting board, a rice cooker, and more!
Participants loved decorating aprons to take home (top) and were excited to take home other kitchen supplies after lesson 3 (bottom)
The last activity of SNC was a Family Cooking Day that was held at one of the in-person sites. This event featured a food demonstration of a recipe for a healthier version of chicken fettucine alfredo with broccoli. The site where we hosted Family Cooking Day serves teen parents. We wanted to give participants the opportunity to learn and practice various cooking skills. The teen moms did a great job following instructions and working together to prepare the meal. They were taught how to follow a recipe, use knives safely, prepare and cook raw chicken, chop broccoli and mince garlic, and they used these skills to successfully create a tasty meal. We gave the participants additional cooking supplies - including kitchen knives, a meat thermometer, saucepan, and skillet so they would be able to implement their new skills at home.
Fun and good food were had by all at Family Cooking Day
This year of SNC was extremely successful, and I learned so much from both the children and the Gleaners staff that I had the privilege to meet throughout this summer. I am confident that this experience gave me valuable skills that I will use throughout my career as a dietitian. I would like to thank the community partners I was able to work with this summer and the Gleaners’ team! I would also like to say a special thank you to Sarah Wilson, RDN, Gleaners’ Nutrition Manager, for all her help, support, and guidance throughout this summer. I hope the sites we worked with this summer will continue to promote nutrition and explore new foods!
All the SNC recipes, videos, and lesson guides are available year-round on the Summer Nutrition Club page for anyone interested!
Staff Registered Dietitians at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns