As a Marketing Intern for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit one of our Kids Cafe programs at the Skyline Urban Mission. I genuinely enjoyed the time I spent with the children and staff during my visit.
I learned about the techniques they use in educating children on how to have a healthy lifestyle. Areas of focus in achieving this goal are: identifying healthy food choices, learning the food pyramid and hands-on preparation of meals and snacks. This program also provides additional support for children through mentoring, tutoring and one-on-one relationships. Kids Cafe stimulates character development, social interactions, proper manners and conflict resolution for the children. They use innovative methods to actively involve the children through arts and crafts, outdoor activities and cognitive development. The best part about programs like these is the experiences that the children have, in addition to the relationships developed.
When an evaluation was done on the effectiveness of the Kids Cafe program, it revealed many positive results. Both parents and children were asked how the program benefited them. The results were as follows:
- 91 percent of the children said to have learned more about healthy foods
- 93 percent of the parents witnessed behavioral improvements in their children
- 80 percent of the children had grade improvements
- 98 percent said they met adults or older kids that respected them through the program
Through my own experience at the Skyline Urban Mission, and the results of the children involved, I believe this program is truly remarkable and beneficial for the children. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to experience the Kids Cafe first hand.
3:03 PM on Thursday, July 15th, 20103 Comments
I work with kids. I talk to kids about food, healthy eating and cooking. I ask more questions of them then they ask of me, and I often get answers I don’t expect. My project this month has been VeggieDillas (or vegetable quesadillas, for readers born without a compound word gene). The thrust of the activity is getting a group of 6-12 year olds at our Kids Cafe program to name fruits and vegetables that are different colors. I often start with green and immediately tiny hands reach for the sky.
“Uhh…. I forgot…”
Peals of elementary laughter.
When I get to white or brown, groups often get stuck. We always have to stop and go over why eggs and milk (though both white) aren’t a fruit or vegetable. Milk comes from cows, not the ground. Therefore, not a fruit or vegetable. Eggs come from chickens, so also not a fruit or vegetable. Eggs are NOT a dairy product because they’re not made out of milk (don’t laugh, when I worked at a high-end natural grocery store, people got this wrong constantly – eggs are next to the dairy, but guilt by association does not extend to that end of the agricultural rainbow).
I’m used to kids (and grownups) getting foods and food colors wrong, but last week I was thrown by this exchange:
ME: (pointing to a small girl, about 8 ) OK, what brown or white vegetable did you think of?
GIRL: (putting her hand down and smiling brightly) A hamburger.
ME: Well, a hamburger is mostly brown, but it’s not a fruit or vegetable, is it?
A second of silence.
GIRL: (looking down, in a quietly defiant tone) but they taste good…
Uproarious laughter from thirty-five 2nd graders.
I had a second to think while the raucous subsided. I weighed my options, and choose to sidestep the taste issue and tackle the logic of her argument.
ME: You know, Ding-Dongs taste good too, but they’re not a fruit or vegetable either, are they?
Less laughter this time, but enough to afford a smooth transition into the next color and allow me to finish the activity unscathed.
I tell this story to help you understand the need for basic culinary education in our youth. When most of a generation of people grow up believing that food comes from the grocery store, not the soil – we’re all in trouble. We’ve backed ourselves into an agricultural corner by distancing ourselves so extravagantly from the sources of our most basic necessities – food, water and shelter.
If the thinking of your average western 6th grader is applied to a teleological view of humankind as a species, then the capstone of our 70,000 year journey out of sub-Saharan caves is playing Call of Duty 4 and eating microwave Pizza Rolls. But it’s not their fault – they don’t know any better. The lynchpin of what I do is closing the gap between what my great-grandparents knew about food and what our kids know now.
That’s why I work with kids. That’s why I love what I do. Keep your ear to the ground next month for more from me on farm fresh food, why we eat so little of it and why you can’t buy a good tomato at the grocery store.
Nutrition Educator, Americorps Member, Aspiring Farmer
10:19 AM on Thursday, April 22nd, 2010No Comments
CBS’s Greatest America Dog winner Travis Brorsen and his dog Presley were a hit yesterday at the Urban Mission Kids Cafe when they stopped by for a visit! Kids Cafe is our after-school program that provides tutoring, mentoring and food to at-risk youth.
Following his win on Greatest American Dog, Brorsen developed a book and DVD series called Adventures with Travis and Presley, which helps children to improve their manners. Adventures with Travis and Presley came to life at Kids Cafe and helped to educate children on manners when the pair visited the site.
The lessons of Adventures with Travis and Presley are now being incorporated into all 16 of the Regional Food Bank’s Kids Cafe sites in central and western Oklahoma. Kids Cafe provides a safe-haven for 850 at-risk youth by providing mentoring, tutoring and food. The program has been shown to improve grades and behavior, while teaching the importance of eating healthy meals.
Check out this video feature by NewsOK about the visit!
Yesterday, CBS’s Greatest America Dog winner Travis Brorsen and his dog Presley payed a visit to Booker T. Washington Kids Cafe in Enid. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Kids Cafe program provides an after-school safe haven for 850 at-risk youth by providing mentoring, tutoring and food. Following his win on Greatest American Dog, Brorsen developed a book and DVD series called Adventures with Travis and Presley, which helps children to improve their manners. Adventures with Travis and Presley came to life at Kids Cafe as they educated children on manners during their visit.
Big thank you to Travis for coming out to visit the kids supported through our program! Next week, he will also visit Urban Mission Kids Cafe in OKC!
3:46 PM on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010No Comments
We are excited to announce that CBS’s Greatest America Dog winner Travis Brorsen and his dog Presley will pay a visit to Booker T. Washington Kids Cafe in Enid and the Urban Mission Kids Cafe in Oklahoma City this month!
Our Kids Cafe program provides an after-school safe haven for 850 at-risk youth by providing mentoring, tutoring and food.
Following his win on Greatest American Dog, Brorsen developed a book and DVD series called Adventures with Travis and Presley, which helps children to improve their manners. Adventures with Travis and Presley will come to life at Kids Cafe and educate children on manners when the pair visits the site.
After the program, the lessons of Adventures with Travis and Presley will be incorporated into all 16 of the Regional Food Bank’s Kids Cafe sites in central and western Oklahoma. The program has been shown to improve grades and behavior, while teaching the importance of eating healthy meals.
Big thank you to Travis & Presley for taking time to visit these kids and for being a member of our Celebrity Council! Check back later on for video from the event!
10:35 AM on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010No Comments
Check out this video about the Food Bank, which is currently featured on Cox Communications!
I spend a lot of my time thinking about food; professionally and personally. Professionally, my focus is concentrated on teaching people how to eat healthy food that still tastes good and helping them make sensible consumer decisions at the grocery store. Personally, my interest is in historical foodways, traditional preparation methods and how what we eat has shaped our culture. The recipe I’m making this month with the children at our Kids Cafe afterschool programs rolls all of these subjects, plus a little food science and human nutrition, into a very neat (please pardon my pun) ball.
You: “What are you talking about?”
Me: “Recipe first, science and history second.”
Peanut Buttery Oat Balls
1 large jar of Crunchy Peanut Butter (40oz)
½ box Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal Flakes, such as Total or All-Bran (16oz)
3 cups Rolled Oats
1 cup Raisins
1 cup Dried Plums (Prunes), chopped
1 cup Sunflower Seed Kernels
¼ cup Honey
Pour ½ box of cereal onto a cookie sheet and crush with a rolling pin or your hands.
(Should be well smashed up, but not a fine powder.)
Combine all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix until stiff, but not dry.
Roll into small balls (½ the size of golf balls), and roll in crushed cereal.
Place on wax paper covered cookie sheet and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
Makes 30 servings of two balls each, with 342 kcal/serving. Retail price using store brand ingredients: $0.32/serving.
You: “Where is he going with this?”
Your Mom: “Honey, I haven’t the faintest clue.”
Amino Acids. They’re these little molecules that build proteins – our bodies make most of them for us, but there are nine that we only get from food (phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, and lysine – you don’t need to remember that, there’s no test). Lots of foods are missing some of these, so combining foods lacking in opposing aminos make complete proteins. One of the best ways to eat complete proteins is combining whole grains and legumes. Why? Because they’re cheap, tasty and healthy. Beans and corn tortillas. Lentils and brown rice. Peanut butter and whole wheat bread…or oats.
Oats (even rolled oats) are whole grain. Yup. When you’re eating your bowl of morning oatmeal, you’re consuming one of the tastiest whole grains on the grocery aisle. So adding peanut butter to whole oats? Cheap, healthy, tasty and a complete protein with a full complement of amino acids!
You: “How is he going to tie this into food history?”
Your Dad: “Huh? Oh yeah, it looks good.”
Farming and agriculture were key components of our development as civilizations. About 10,000 years ago we stopped wandering around looking for berries and started planting seeds. We were able to grow more food than we needed at any given time, allowing us to store some of it for times of cold or drought. Preventing mass starvation was a crucial step in societies flourishing. Food surpluses also afforded people time to think about things like wheels, buildings, science, art, music and the internet (much later, obviously). In what is now central Mexico, rows of corn were staggered with rows of beans, and their combined eating (after soaking the corn in wood ash – a fascinating conversation for a different time) led to one of the most advanced cultures in human history. Several hundred generations of those lovely complete amino acid chains stoking our muscles and brain structures helped us to build cities, sail oceans and commit our exploits to written words.
You: “How is he going to tie this all together?”
Me: “Like this:”
Eating well on a budget seems incredibly daunting to a lot of people, but once you know where we’ve come from culinarily, a clear path forward starts to emerge. Starting with the basics, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Lean Proteins and Whole Grains; nearly infinite combinations open up – the majority of them healthy and affordable. Peanut Buttery Oat Balls are an iceberg’s tip; keep your RSS readers tuned to this station for more from me on food, history, science and how we can all be better people.
- By Mason Weaver, Nutrition Educator & Americorps Member
Because of your generosity, in Fiscal Year 2009, the Regional Food Bank:
- Distributed more than 28.5 million pounds of food to those in need – a 15% increase over the previous year.
- Served nearly 8,000 chronically hungry elementary school children in 263 schools in 38 counties through our Food 4 Kids backpack program.
- Expanded the Summer Feeding program to 45 sites, including rural Oklahoma.
- Provided a safe haven and an afternoon snack or meal for more than 850 children through our Kids Cafe sites.
- Increased the Senior Feeding program to 30 sites.
- Delivered food throughout the Regional Food Bank’s service area via the Regional Delivery System, making approximately 1,000 deliveries per month to nearly 350 delivery sites in urban and rural Oklahoma at no cost to our partner agencies.
- Initiated the Walmart Supercenter and Neighborhood Market Product Recovery Program in late January, with 53 authorized Walmart locations – resulting in more than two million pounds of food collected and distributed.
- Completed fundraising and construction of our Building Expansion – Volunteer Center, adding 36,600 square feet of additional freezer, dry storage and volunteer work space.
- Welcomed thousands of volunteers who contributed over 47,000 hours of service – saving the Regional Food Bank more than $900,000 in labor costs.
- Provided enough food to feed more than 63,600 hungry Oklahomans each week.
- Kept our administrative and fundraising costs below 5%.
It’s fall, and blissfully, that means it’s apple season. How many different varieties of apples have you eaten in your life? Sadly, most people could count them on one hand. A century ago, backyard orchards were as common as vegetable gardens, with many families cultivating heirloom strains to call their own. Prior to the Second World War, there were more than 7,000 apple cultivars flourishing across our nation. Of those, as few as 150 remain, only 15 of which are grown on a large commercial scale. The rest… extinct. Today, many grocery stores carry just 3 or 4 varieties. How did we get from there to here?
Fruit trees run the length and breadth of human history, but were of particular importance in the economy and palate of Colonial America. Our founding fathers, chiefly Washington and Jefferson, were avid orchardists, planting vast tracts of their estates with hundreds of unique cultivars. It would surely sadden Thomas Jefferson to know that his prized Newton Pippin is today both unavailable in most supermarkets and almost wholly unknown to the majority of the current population. The primary culprit in our loss of variety is, unfortunately, us. We spent the better part of the last 70 years buying apples based on how they looked, not how they tasted. As a result, the Red Delicious variety had completely taken over by the mid 1970s. Bred for color and travel hardiness, it had the kind of shelf appeal that has all too often trumped taste in the modern supermarket. In the late 1990s, after twenty years of commercial dominance, the once sought-after Red Delicious was gently nudged aside to make room for its tastier relatives. Since then, consumer demand has brought a few heritage apples, along with recent innovations, back to our shelves and given us at least a small glimpse of our former apple diversity. New cultivars such as Honeycrisp, Jazz and Cameo are bringing discerning shoppers back to fold and whetting the appetites of the latest generation of apple enthusiasts.
In light of all this, and to strengthen the roots (pardon the pun) anchoring us to our Pomological Heritage (that is, our tree fruits of yester-year), I’m on a sort of Apple Mission. This fall, I’m taking 10 different kinds of apples to many of the Regional Food Bank’s Kids Cafe elementary after-school programs. Kids Cafe provides food, mentoring, tutoring, and a variety of other activities to approximately 850 at-risk children at 16 sites in central and western Oklahoma. We’ll be touching, smelling, and, of course, tasting each variety. We’ll then be rating them, discussing which are our favorites and why. I’ll be talking about where apples come from, how they grow, why they’re different from each other, the history of the apple industry and why it’s important.
To better educate yourself about apples, get down to the OSU-OKC Farmer’s Market this fall and pick up some Oklahoma Grown apples. They’ve got Mollies Delicious, Gale Gala, Honeycrisp, Valstar, Fuji, Albemarle Pippen (another name for Jefferson’s favorite), and Northern Spy to name just a few. They’re all grown right here in our state, and they’re all delicious. You owe it to yourself, and to Thomas Jefferson, to eat a fresh, handpicked apple this year.
- Mason Weaver, AmeriCorps Member/Nutrition Educator