This summer the Healthy Kids in the Bon Appétit Kitchen program continued its partnership with LifeMoves, a nonprofit committed to ending the cycle of homelessness for families and individuals in California’s San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. In addition to providing housing, LifeMoves teaches comprehensive life skills that help families achieve long-term self-sufficiency, including children’s programming and academic support in a stable and healthy environment, to overcome the trauma of homelessness.
Manager of Food Education for Children Hannah Schmunk and the Healthy Kids team were thrilled to plan both a field trip to the Garden at AT&T Park and two on-site nutrition and culinary workshops for LifeMoves children. First, children from LifeMoves’ Daly City housing site were bused to AT&T Park to learn about where food comes from, explore the Garden, harvest ingredients, and prepare a healthy meal with the Garden’s Healthy Kids educators, Sam Wilder and Nora Cata. “The kids left with both full stomachs and an appreciation for healthy and fresh food,” shared a LifeMoves counselor later.
A few weeks later, Hannah went to LifeMoves’ San Mateo and San Jose housing sites to host Healthy Kids workshops for children and youth ranging from elementary school to high school. After setting up cooking activity stations, she gathered the kids together and began with a simple warm-up question: “What are your favorite foods?”
The answers ranged from Panda Express and Chipotle to cotton candy and pasta. Hoping to hear some fruits and vegetables, she asked, “What are some of your favorite healthy foods?” and smiled to hear foods like broccoli, carrots, strawberries, and bananas.
She then shared two helpful strategies for making healthy food choices. The first was about understanding the difference between processed versus unprocessed foods. After learning what those big words meant, kids learned how to identify real, whole foods that are packed with nutrition and foods that have been heavily modified from their natural state, causing them to lose nutrition or contain unhealthy additives like sugar and chemicals.
To test what they’d learned, Hannah split the group into teams, gave each team a deck of cards with images of food, and asked the teams to separate the processed foods from the unprocessed foods. It was heartwarming to see the older youth help the younger kids with this task. Next, using a new deck of cards, they had to organize the foods in order of least processed to most processed. For example, the strawberry team had cards with strawberries, a smoothie, jam, ice cream, and candies to sort, and the corn team had cards with corn on the cob, creamed corn, popcorn, corn bread, corn chips, and cereal.
Next Hannah went over the importance of trying to “eat the rainbow” and choose colorful fruits and vegetables when they’re available and accessible, which led into the cooking activity.
The group applied their newfound knowledge by preparing rainbow fruit parfaits: kids chopped strawberries, bananas, peaches, and blueberries and layered the fruits with yogurt and granola. They enjoyed the healthy snacks together, noting that the parfaits incorporated a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods as well as some lightly processed foods, in a rainbow of colors.
After each workshop, it was hard to say goodbye to these sweet, smart, curious kids, knowing the challenges their families are facing. But the Bon Appétit Healthy Kids team is so thankful for organizations like LifeMoves that are helping homeless families find stability and achieve autonomy so children have the opportunity to learn and grow, live in a healthy environment, and just be fun-loving kids!