Students, parents mix it up at ‘Fun Food Academy’ in Fredericksburg

http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2014/02/20/students-parents-mix-it-up-at-fun-food-academy/

BY JESSICA KOERS / THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Rosa Delgado watched the clock as the broccoli, enough to serve more than 20 people, steamed in a huge pot. After five minutes, she scooped it out with a strainer and placed it in a cafeteria-style serving dish.

Delgado and about 15 other people, including preschool-age children, gathered at the original Walker-Grant Elementary School Feb. 19 to participate in “Fun Food Academy.”

Food Service Director for Fredericksburg City Schools Brian Kiernan shows Rosa Delgado, of Fredericksburg, how to slice fresh vegetables during Fun Food Academy. The program, held at the original Walker Grant cafeteria in Fredericksburg, teaches parents and kids healthier eating habits and different ways of introducing food to young kids. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Food Service Director for Fredericksburg City Schools Brian Kiernan shows Rosa Delgado, of Fredericksburg, how to slice fresh vegetables during Fun Food Academy. The program, held at the original Walker Grant cafeteria in Fredericksburg, teaches parents and kids healthier eating habits and different ways of introducing food to young kids. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

The academy is a five-month program designed to educate students and parents about proper nutrition and correct portion sizes when it comes to the core food groups of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and dairy.

“What I try to do is a lesson, a dinner, and give them the ingredients to take home,” said Brian Kiernan, the food-service director for city schools.

“Fun Food Academy” is a collaborative effort between Mary Washington Healthcare’s Community Benefit program, Fredericksburg public schools, the city’s farmer’s market, area pediatricians and a federal program called “Myplate Initiative.”

Wednesday was the kickoff class for the academy. It gave parents and children an introduction to shopping tips, cooking techniques and recipes.

“I need to learn because I am afraid that, maybe, I’m not cooking very well in my home,” said Delgado, who has two daughters.

While the parents chopped and breaded in the kitchen, the children pounded

Cheerios for their snack.

Three year-old Amontae Brown, of Fredericksburg, taste tests an apple sandwich during Fun Food Academy. The program, held at the original Walker Grant cafeteria in Fredericksburg, teaches parents and kids healthier eating habits and different ways of introducing food to young kids. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Three year-old Amontae Brown, of Fredericksburg, taste tests an apple sandwich during Fun Food Academy. The program, held at the original Walker Grant cafeteria in Fredericksburg, teaches parents and kids healthier eating habits and different ways of introducing food to young kids. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

“The pounding was my favorite part,” said Aaliyah Fox–Carter, 7.

Each month’s class will tackle a different aspect of the plate and, in June, will make a trip to the farmer’s market to buy fresh food for a picnic.

“The class about snacks at the end is a big one because kids are eating too much junk,” Kiernan said.

The next class will be March 19 when Hugh Mercer Elementary School is holding its transition night for Head Start students going to kindergarten. The class will make dinner for about 250 people and will discuss fruits and vegetables.

“My agenda is that I want parents and families to understand that it doesn’t have to be tree bark all the time,” Kiernan said.

Ann Brown, of Fredericksburg, prepares a salad during Fun Food Academy. The program, held at the original Walker Grant cafeteria in Fredericksburg, teaches parents and kids healthier eating habits and different ways of introducing food to young kids. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Ann Brown, of Fredericksburg, prepares a salad during Fun Food Academy. The program, held at the original Walker Grant cafeteria in Fredericksburg, teaches parents and kids healthier eating habits and different ways of introducing food to young kids. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Right now, “Fun Food Academy” is targeted at families who have students in the Head Start program, but Kiernan said he hopes to expand it to the elementary schools next fall.

“Its about making familiar foods healthier,” said Laura Eubanks, Head Start’s nutritionist. “Tonight we are making chicken fingers.”

Along with baked chicken fingers, the dinner also had rice, broccoli and salad. The whole dinner, for more than 20 people, took 45 minutes to make and would cost a family of five about $7.

“I will definitely apply what I learned today at home because I have a picky eater,” said Ann Brown, who is a mother of four.

For parents with picky eaters, Eubanks recommends exposing them to different foods routinely.

“It will take about 10 to 15 times of seeing a food before a kid will even eat it,” Eubanks said.

Parents who are interested in participating in the program should talk to their child’s Head Start instructor.

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444

jkoers@freelancestar.com

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