Kids Cafe

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.

Kaydee Gladden

Kaydee Gladden

Kaydee Gladden is a Marketing Intern at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
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Jamie Oliver, ABC's Food Revolution

In a thought-provoking new series called Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC, Chef Jamie Oliver, a best-selling author and 2010 TED Prize winner, invites us to change the way we eat.  The show follows Oliver’s efforts in Huntington, West Virginia – a community recently singled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the “unhealthiest cities in America.”  Oliver hopes to help the community move away from fast food and unhealthy snacks toward freshly cooked food and better nutrition – in their homes, workplaces, and most importantly, schools!

The show’s upcoming premiere has me thinking of my work here at the Regional Food Bank as I advocate for increased student participation in school nutrition programs.  For the most part, schools in Oklahoma serve meals based on an established meal pattern:  menus are planned and food is ordered according to USDA nutritional guidelines.  Despite this, pizza, chicken nuggets and biscuits and gravy remain the most popular items in the cafeteria.  These choices are not completely unhealthy – but couldn’t our schools do better?

Having more participation in the programs would be great, since only 45% of the students in Oklahoma participate in the National School Lunch Program, and even fewer in the National School Breakfast Program and Summer Food Service Program.  These programs are especially important for students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals, as sometimes these are the only meals a child receives.

Food Revolution is loosely based on Oliver’s experiences in the U.K., where he employed grassroots efforts to improve the school lunch program.  Oliver was able to completely overhaul the system to include better, more nutritious, food.  In this series, Oliver will show how he tries to help Huntington as an example for the rest of the country.  It’s definitely worth watching!

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution debuts today, March 26 (8:00-9:00 p.m., CST) on ABC.

-By Suma Ananthaswamy, AmeriCorps Member/Child Nutrition Advocacy

Suma Ananthaswamy

Suma Ananthaswamy

Suma Ananthaswamy is the Childhood Nutrition Advocacy AmeriCorps Member at the Regional Food Bank. Suma graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 2009.
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We Built This City on Corn and Beans

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

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

Mason Weaver

Mason Weaver

Mason Weaver (AmeriCorps Member) is our Urban Harvest Director. Mason returned to Oklahoma last year to teach kids about healthy food and pursue his passion for sustainable market gardening. He believes that teaching a child to grow, harvest and cook their own vegetables will make ours a more just and equitable society.
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Commodity Supplemental Food Program

This past month marked a huge victory for the Regional Food Bank and all anti-hunger advocates! On October 21, President Obama signed into law the final agriculture appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2010 (H.R. 2997). This legislation includes a significant investment in nutrition assistance programs, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).

The CSFP provides food packages to supplement the diets of at-risk populations, including the elderly. Often times, this program is a safety net for those who fall through the cracks in other nutrition assistance programs.

For the past six years, Oklahoma has been waiting for Congress to appropriate adequate funding to make the CSFP available for our most vulnerable citizens. Finally, the wait is over. A little over $171 million has been allocated to fund the CSFP. And $5 million of this funding has been set aside for an expansion of the program in seven new states with approved USDA plans, including Oklahoma.

We will keep you updated as we learn more about the implementation of the CSFP in Oklahoma. On behalf of those in our state who will soon receive the help they so desperately need – thank you for contacting your federal legislator and helping get this bill passed!

Help us continue to fight hunger. Sign up to become an advocate now!

- Ashley Stokes, Advocacy & Public Policy Manager

Ashley Stokes

Ashley Stokes

Ashley Stokes is the Advocacy & Public Policy Manager at the Regional Food Bank. She graduated from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 2009.
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