Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Project Description and Statement of Need

Need of the community- Staying in the loop around health and nutrition is difficult as it attracts more and more national attention. Programs rise and fall. Money appears and disappears. All the while the community suffers from misinformation and disengagement. The silence stops here. Families need to get engaged in pushing the community to it's feet. It begins with the children as their energy and desire for change is met in the kitchen with nutritious foods and hands-on learning. It ends with the parents as they scaffold their child's development as a chef-in-the-making and a leader in the neighborhood. Access will be given to reliable health-promoting resources, and time will be made for analysis of socio-cultural influences on family and community health practices.

Convening youth and parents and giving voice to their plans to perform health-enhancing practices is the best strategy at achieving lasting change on the ground in these communities.

A. youth will be able to develop wellness (nutrition & physical activity) goals to adopt, maintain, or improve their personal health practices.
B. Implement strategies to overcome barriers to action.

1. Convene youth weekly for cooking class.
2. Provide reliable nutrition, food safety, and cooking information.
3. Conduct appropriate cooking lesson.
4. Convene parents and youth for discussion on community needs and resources.
5. Stage one community event designed to mobilize support in the community.

In order to achieve objectives:
I. Youth will select foods for healthful eating as they choose dishes to be prepared the following week from health-oriented cook books .
II. Youth will prepare foods in healthful ways every cooking club session.
III. Families will enjoy foods prepared.
IV. Discussions will be facilitated in order to arrive at consensus on strategies to overcome barriers to action within the community. By determining the needs and resources of the community, the design of the community health event, intending to educate and empower, will be made more effective.
V. Youth will design community health action plans and implement with the help of parents and coordinator.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Focus on Families

The Focus on Families cannot fail to appeal to parents. The appeal will take the form of exposures to both healthy, delicious, recipes and their children as reliable young chefs-in-the-making. Thus, the program must proceed as follows:

Implement cooking clubs @ school sites culminating in a student-catered home-to-school meeting. Conclude that home-to-school meeting with an invitation to participate in weekend cooking classes for the whole family. These family cooking sessions will teach basic food safety knowledge, basic cooking skills, and quick, safe, healthy dishes for kids (for all those guardians wary of kids in the kitchen).

Once this process has been implemented the entire family will be engaged through their own creative desires to work with food. Engagement and creativity are the keys to successful health outcomes and pulling the whole family into the loop will ensure a more contagious, well-rounded, and powerful environment. If these young people can have the backing of their parents, then real changes will begin to take hold.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not Enough Time? Get Creative

Motivations to improve the diets of our families must not linger in any form of guilt or embarrassment. Instead the conversation must be empowering and positive as changes are sought to not just change our understanding of nutrition but also of preparing nutritious meals. If adults don't have as much time to prepare meals, enlist the young people to help and make the process something creative and fun for both parties. Encourage the creative energies of all parties to meet at the table and create meals that reflect not just their nutrition needs but their worldly passions as well. For instance, if you are cooking a dinner for the whole family explain to the young person (enlistee) our need for some medium to inform the rest of the family to the nutrition benefits of our meal, then suggest that the young one illustrate a comic detailing the preparation of the meal along with some nutrition information.

Working as a group and having fun must be two of the cornerstones you lean on during this long and tenacious effort to empower ourselves and our future generations of eaters and producers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

By the Young, For the Young

Students need the opportunity to lead themselves through our convoluted world of public health. As a guide I will offer a cooking club experience where they will hone their healthy cooking skills, explore food system research (nutrition), and apply both to their communities in an effort to better themselves and their families. This hands-on community organizing resource will help to mobilize support for these young activists and reinforce key nutrition/health goals. Students will take ownership, challenge their friends and families to live well, and have fun doing it.

This program aims to convene the in-school education effort with the community education efforts. The young people are the perfect focus point. Directing additional resources to them for the purpose of organizing their communities around their nutrition/health related passions will accomplish more than you or I can imagine. The future is in the hands of the youth, it's about time they got their hands dirty.

Specifically, I would like to offer cooking/community organizing series' with the stated purpose of putting students in the driver's seat for their communities. Through weekly meetings preparing unique nutritious dishes and conversations about current health issues specific to their area, these young people will think critically and creatively about what they can do to make an impact. Strategies will be outlined and plans of actions will be implemented by and for the young people.

The By & For programming will have the effect of bringing nutrition home to these young people. We must look at the child as a part of a larger network influencing their health. We can expect no less of our children as they take their place as the future leaders of our schools, communities, and more.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Concept: More than Measurable

I suppose I've been working to create a framework, numerous partnerships, logistical know-how, and appropriate expectations since I began working here. I will always thoroughly enjoy the classroom and implementing classroom activities but I believe in order to provide the kind of programming necessary to change the food environment that frustrates so many of us, we must challenge young people to become active participants rather than passive participants. I once believed students and I could so this work from the classroom and effect change, but now I see the work must be done outside in the real-world where the full context of what these young people are doing can be appreciated.

As a nutrition educator now, I walk into classrooms and pontificate about healthy diets and the students' eyes glaze over. But if you want to see young people ready and willing to work on their Nutrition and the health of their community challenge them to walk rather than to talk. In the numerous cases where I implemented cafeteria tastings, cooking clubs, or some other opportunities for young people to act as leaders, they responded with passion and enthusiasm. To that point they were no longer passive but active with their own education.

Agreements must be cultivated between traditional and nontraditional partners so that our young people can have the power their agency requires. They have the desire, they just need to be met with opportunities to practice cooking nutritious dishes and reaching out into the community to advocate for their own health and the health of their families and friends. Once they have this opportunity to be creative and fight for their right to good food, the effects will be more than measurable.