Eating Smart From the Start Program educates child care providers in nutrition

Any parent knows how hard it can be to get kids to eat nutritious food. Child care providers struggle with the problem as well.

 Michigan State University Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Saginaw and Genesee counties partnered with Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline) to offer the Eating Smart From the Start program designed by Cooking Matters. The program empowers child care providers to serve nutritious – and delicious – meals and teach healthy eating habits to the children in their care. This five-session course engaged 15 child care providers caring for children living in low-income situations in a series of participatory cooking lessons. In November 2010, the program received a grant from Cooking Matters, sponsored nationally by Wal-Mart and the ConAgra Foods Foundation, to implement a series in the winter and spring.

 Dawn Earnesty, Extension educator District 9, oversees the program and grant. Monica Borsenik, MSU Saginaw County Extension program instructor, and Chrystal Harris, MSU Genesee County Extension program assistant, provided nutrition instruction. A culinary professional, Brandon Odum, who is a culinary arts major at Mott Community College, provided instruction for the cooking aspect of the class. Topics included healthy snack ideas for children, healthy recipes, menu planning, budgeting and strategies to promote positive attitudes about food among children.

 Participants took part in hands-on cooking lessons with direction from Mr. Odum. Grant money provided groceries for child care providers to take home and prepare meals with the children they care for. It also provided for a group meal and snack at the educational session.

 Throughout the class, participants discovered new ideas about nutrition and healthy recipes to implement into their child care businesses. The curriculum focused on engaging children into the cooking process, trying new foods and learning the importance of eating meals as a family.

 One child care provider, who had described issues she had with picky eaters, implemented the program’s “cucumber sammies” recipe for her children’s healthy snack one day. She couldn’t believe the positive response she received from the children. They were eating something green and healthy and liked it! Participant evaluations from the first session resulted in 100 percent of the group reporting they enjoyed the content and learned at least one new piece of information about nutrition.

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