Kids’ Food Matters

Food for Thought

Plant-Based Nutrition Education at EDWARD BAIN SCHOOL OF LANGUAGES AND ART

PBNM is creating something special and plant-based in the dairy state! Edward Bain School of Language and Art (EBSOLA), nestled in Kenosha, WI, is our pilot site for a school-based 6 Million Seeds project! Dilip Barman, a long-time educator and plant-based chef, created the award-winning “Healthy Snack Program.” The experience is built around vegetables, whole foods, and the joys of plant-based nutrition. The project, which we call “Kids’ Food Matters,” will take 21 4th and 5th graders on a journey to learn why what kids’ eat is so important.

Planting the Seeds of Knowledge:

Teaching kids about the benefits of plant-based nutrition is about much more than just eating fruits and veggies. It’s about giving them the tools to make informed choices that can shape their lifelong health. Guided by their wonderful teacher, Tina Miller, who is known for her enthusiasm and connection with students, these children learn why vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, grains, and water are superheroes in disguise. And they get to cook a bit and eat what they make! Kids’ Food Matters is a hands-on experience incorporating all 5 (or 6) senses. The program fosters a love for nutritious foods and exposes the kids to essential life skills.

Providing the Tools:

To kickstart the program, PBNM provided Mrs. Miller’s classroom with the essential tools:

  • an InstantPot,
  • a refrigerator,
  • a Vitamix,
  • and a bounty of whole food plant-based (WFPB) groceries.

These supplies enable Mrs. Miller to prepare wholesome snacks twice a week, which is key for the students. I mean, come on! We all know that nobody gets excited about eating well-seasoned beans and rice unless they get to try it for themselves!

Taste Adventures:

One of the highlights of this program is the exploration of various WFPB ingredients. The kids eagerly test out yummy recipes made with ingredients like millet, amaranth, raisins, sweet potatoes, rice, and soy milk. Every snack is a little taste adventure designed to expand their palates and offer a glimpse into the rich tapestry of hearty plant-based fare. It’s about making learning delicious, fresh, and fun!

Monthly Sessions:

Once a month, I get to go into this well-run classroom. What a joy to spend time with Mrs. Miller and the students! The first session was in September. (I didn’t write about it because I didn’t want to jinx it!) I am happy to report both Carrie Bruno and I arrived as planned and had no trouble getting the kids involved in a lesson about nutrition basics. At the end of the session, we served the students rotini pasta with marinara, garbanzos, and zucchini. Some of the children had never had garbanzos or zucchini. Aaaand, they loved it! We started the class with 2 InstantPots full, and by the end, we had about 3 cups left! Some of the children had 3 or more servings!

Having the students engaged in learning, helping cook, and doing other little lesson-related tasks is so rewarding. They eagerly learn about nutrition and whip up delectable plant-based dishes. It’s not just about recipes; it’s about fostering culinary creativity, curiosity, and a lifelong love for nourishing foods.

The Impact:

With eight more sessions planned, we are early in the program. The impact of this plant-based nutrition program is yet to be seen, but I can tell you that the first class was a hit. The team’s goal is that by the end of the school year, the students are not just eating their veggies at school but also enthusiastically requesting them. (That sounds funny even to me!) The bigger goal is that their growing knowledge of WFPB foods, nutrition, and cooking spills over into their homes, influencing their families to make healthier choices. We really want 6 Million seeds to take root in their young hearts and minds, and flourish for generations.

Challenges and Triumphs:

Of course, no journey is without its challenges. Encouraging vegetable consumption in picky eaters can be a hurdle. Still, with the guidance and encouragement from the team at EBSOLA, the kids are rising to the occasion. In the classroom, even the picky eaters find it safe to try something new, especially when the whole class participates. Besides that, the children know it is OK if they don’t want to eat, too. Whether they eat or not is not the important part. The main “thing” is that they are learning about how food affects our health and that they have an opportunity to taste different foods. The moments of success, when a child excitedly shares a newfound love for beans or whole grains, make it all worthwhile.

The Road Ahead:

As this 6 Million Seeds plant-based nutrition program continues during the school year, the vision is to continually refine the classes and recipes. We want to expand the program’s reach, inspiring more schools to embrace similar initiatives. EBSOLA is proof that with dedication, a great team, and the right resources, we can nourish bodies, minds, and hearts.

I am proud to say at EBSOLA, the team is sowing the seeds of health and nutrition early, with the intention that they grow in these vibrant young individuals. With Tina Miller’s guidance, Dilip Barman’s support, and a school community that believes in the power of plants, these students are setting a course for a lifetime of good health and well-being. Together, they are growing healthier, one plant-based bite at a time.

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