“It tastes like a rainbow!” exclaimed 9 year old Carlos. His smile, framed by a green mustache from his freshly-made kale, strawberry, banana smoothie, broadened in delight. “Think it might be good with spinach too?”
Carlos and his family lived in Mystic Public Housing, a low-income housing development with a great after-school program. With limited funds, they relied on cheap, starch-based foods to keep them full, but not energized.
“I was always tired so my mom took me to the doctor,” Carlos explained. “When the doctor told us what was wrong, she couldn’t stop crying.” The pediatrician discovered that Carlos was pre-diabetic and was at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, Carlos attended Real Kids Real Food at the Mystic Learning Center for one hour a week. There he got the chance to learn how to prepare food while playing games and expanding his understanding of good nutrition.
“You should see the things I can make now!” Carlos says proudly. “Linguini with marinara sauce is fun—especially making the noodles out of zucchini.” When it was most vital to his health, Carlos learned to love preparing fresh healthy meals, coming home from Real Kids Real Food each week with nutrition tips and recipes, eager to expand his family’s knowledge of healthy eating. Together they learned how green vegetables could help change his prognosis and where they could procure affordable or free vegetables.
Three months later at his next doctor’s appointment, Carlos heard the good news. “All my tests came back clear, and the doctor said I was really healthy!” Carlos beamed. “My mom cried again, but because she was so happy this time.”
Carlos’s success resulted from his mother and his participation in the Real Kids Real Food Program at the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville. This year’s program, funded by The Staples Foundation, Real Kids Real Food Pre-Teen Program – A Fight Against Obesity and Diabetes in Children directly impacts the reversal of the shocking national trends towards obesity and childhood diabetes. In its fifth successful year, 40 Pre-Teens (ages 8-12) and 20 of their will enjoy hands-on activities regarding nutrition, local and organic food, gardening, grocery shopping, planning and preparing meals, with the ultimate goal of learning how to achieve and continue an overall healthy lifestyle. The program broadens their exposure to making healthy choices with attention to affordability and incorporates physical activities and parent involvement throughout the year. OHS has piloted this program in other public housing environments with measurable success. To learn more, please view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6qjJVPadXI&list=UU87o7krFAdv4L5Ln_kl4Hmg
Thanks to the Staples Foundation for its $5,000 funding for youth to explore teaching careers, OHS is considering a number of applicants for the Teaching Assistant Position of Real Kids Real Food Preteen/ Parents Program (including past graduates of the program). OHS and Mystic Learning Center are looking forward to supporting 40 pre teens (ages 8-12) and 20 of their parents in their pursuit of a sustainable healthy lifestyle from January 9th- March 20th 2018. We are currently pursuing additional funding from neighborhood supermarkets to provide the groceries for program. Last year’s cost of ingredients catered to only twenty participants and we are excited to be expanding to sixty participants this year!
We are currently seeking volunteers to take the Teaching Assistants (2) to the supermarket and mentor them on how to select affordable, organic, ripe produce in preparation for the lessons on Tuesdays from 3pm to 6pm. If interested, please contact Betsy by writing to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling her at (617)835-2913.
If you are looking for a way to get more involved, join Optimum Health Solution in changing children’s futures one meal at a time by launching Real Kids Real Food in an after-school program in your community. For two hours a week over the course of ten weeks, children are given an invaluable education about nutrition, mindfulness, exercise, and overall health that will last them a lifetime. You can help make real change in the lives of the children who need it most. Feel free to contact Betsy by writing to her at email@example.com or calling her at (617)835-2913 for ideas, tips, and advice about how to start Real Kids Real Food in your community.
Optimum Health Solution has joined the effort to combat childhood obesity by creating the Real Kids Real Food Club after-school program for low income children ages 5-14.
Real Kids Real Food inspires children to eat plant-based, organic living foods by growing and preparing their own food. Each student walks away from their weekly, after-school club with a new recipe and the self-confidence to create it at home, thus involving family members in their process. The children experience the seed-to-plant-to-fruit cycle over the school year by studying the biology and chemistry of soil and how the environment affects food growth. Visual arts, music and literature are utilized to support children’s different learning styles.
After graduating as a Health Educator from the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, FL, Betsy Bragg became the Executive Director of Optimum Health Solution (OHS), a non-profit, in Waltham, MA. Real Kids Real Food germinated when Betsy decided to help curb childhood obesity and malnutrition by teaching to children to make healthy choices. She shared her goals with the adult students enrolled in her 10-week “Eat to Thrive” class, and they immediately volunteered to facilitate the program.
The initial program, a 30-credit, teacher-training course, was launched at the Martin Luther King, Jr., School (K-8) in Dorchester, MA. Subsequently, at the Elizabeth Peabody House in Somerville, MA, the curriculum evolved into an after-school program. This year, thanks to a generous grant from the Somerville Health Foundation, OHS will be providing the Real Kids Real Food experience to students as part of the Mystic Learning Center’s after-school program.
WE WOULD LIKE TO GIVE A BIG THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS OF REAL KIDS REAL FOOD
Trying to launch Real Kids Real Food in your community? Learn from those who went before you! On the following pages you will see how community leaders launched our program, successes and struggles included. Have a look for yourself!)
Use the arrows to turn the pages. Enjoy!
For the End-Of-The-Year Party, the children created their own recipes and prepared the book above for their parents. The book contains letters to the superintendent and their principals recommending healthy recipes for their school lunches. You can see the wonderful recipes that they enjoyed making during their Real Kids Real Food Club Meetings.
Presented with a bountiful table filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, the children were invited to brainstorm and create dishes for their parents.
With support from Marcus Gorman and Brian Axelrod, who led the team with program director Betsy Bragg, the children were free to create and create they did!
Many loved the idea of making guacamole: “ I love touching the food,” said Kaylie. They teamed up to squeeze the lemons, mash the avocado pulp and add the other ingredients, which they later put back inside the empty avocado shell. Others loved making the smoothies they have grown to love, using the Vitamix blender and an array of colorful fruit. There were also salads and a few dessert items.
Parents and children loved the gathering, which also included traditional cooked foods. Several parents were inspired by the offer by Gorman
to create their traditional dish flavors with the raw and plant-based diet ingredients.
Please join our wonderful group of volunteers and staff
My favorite thing about Real Kids, Real Food was the Family Culture Event, where families had to bring different foods from their culture. We had the event in the big room and a lot of families came. My friends Nevaeh and Ronaldo helped me make two different kids of fruit smoothies. We put strawberries, bananas, and mango in one of them, it was so delicious. Linda brought brocoli zetti and it was so good. It made me like broccoli a lot more.
I joined the Mystic Learning Center in November, coming from an after school program in Havril. When I started seeing kids at my new program eating healthy snacks I thought it was so weird. I mean these kids were asking for humus and fruit and didn’t make sense until I saw Real Kids, Real Food come in. It started to make more sense when I saw how they interacted
We got spoiled by the program at our Christmas family potluck when they provided the appetizers, which all of our family members thought were amazing.
By the springtime, I grew so attached to the program that I decided to enroll in the instructor Betsy Bragg’s Raw Foods certification course. From there we started making big changes to our nutrition program. Our kids are truly enjoying eating healthy foods.
My first introduction to Real Kids Real food was during the fall of 2012. I had just started working at the Mystic Learning Center and was still unfamiliar with the many partner organizations that were teaching classes every week. I found the focus on healthy vegan snacks refreshing in the face of processed sugary snacks and junk food that children are accustomed to.
Throughout the year while working with Real Kids Real Food, I saw many children become accustomed to and enjoy many healthy eating options they may have been previously unaware of. The program introduces a culture of conscious food preparation,appreciation of healthy alternatives to common foods, and a “try it, you’ll like it.” attitude that is important for picky eaters to embrace. After several months I noticed children enjoying and choosing healthy snacks that they might have scoffed at the previous fall. Real Kids Real Food has helped broaden the children’s culinary horizons.
I noticed that many of the children enjoyed the food preparation aspect of the program. This seemed to be their time to really shine. The children experienced lots of learning through active participation and were proud of the meals and snacks they produced.
My favorite thing about Real Kids, Real Food was making smoothies. I got to put bananas and strawberries to the blender all by myself. The smoothies were so good. I now like smoothies more than I like candy. Now I make smoothies at home. Real Kids, Real Food was so much fun.
JoJo LaRiccia, who named our program “Real Kids Real Food,” is a filmmaker who runs LaRiccia Media Productions and hosts JoJo’s “DreamCart” TV for kids.