On Wednesday, January 11, Natural Gourmet Instructor Celine Beitchman spoke to an assembly of 5-12 year-olds at Hazel Avenue Elementary School in West Orange, NJ. The topic was What’s Good to Eat, a provocative and interactive 30-minute presentation that encouraged kids to make healthier choices by choosing foods that were both to their liking and more healthy. The event was also covered by the West Orange Patch. We talked with Celine afterward about the event. Here is what Celine had to say about the experience . . .
How did you get involved in this project?
My colleague Lisa Boymann, NGI’s Director of Faculty Administration and member of the Hazel Avenue School’s Parent-Teacher Association Executive Board, asked me to speak. She has a son in Hazel Avenue Elementary where they’re busy kicking off a health and wellness campaign. The programs range from healthy food choices to building better lifestyle habits. We devised a healthy eating assembly which mirrors our philosophy at The Natural Gourmet, but a little more fun and engaging for the under-12 year old audience!
How many children did you present to?
I spoke to two groups, back-to-back, of 200+ kids each, starting with the younger set and then finishing up with the older kids.
What core messages did you want to deliver to the children? What do you think it’s important for them to know?
The biggest message I tried to get across to them is to eat from a rainbow of colorful foods. Naturally colorful, that is. I wanted to make the connection for them that what they like and what’s good for them can be one and the same. We talked a bit about taste buds and trying new things. I think at their age it’s really important to teach them to be open to new tastes as their tastes are evolving everyday.
How did the children receive the information you were sharing?
The room was buzzing! I think the kids had a great time and from the feedback seems like they’re still talking about it at school and at home.
What do you perceive are the major hurdles to children eating more healthfully?
When it comes to healthy eating I think parents bear the brunt of responsibility. We can blame the media and the school system, but I think the onus really rests at home. That said, not enough parents know how to eat healthfully or have the financial or physical resources to do so.
Our kids are going to learn by watching grown-ups especially at the elementary school age. We can’t just expect them to do as we say. More than a few parents and teachers approached me after the presentation saying they’d learned something that will really change their mind about healthy eating. So for me it’s about changing the way the whole family relates to their diet to really get the message to stick.
What message(s) will students carry to their parents after this presentation?
We created a weekly food calendar to post at home so kids can keep track of their food choices and keep the conversation going at the dinner table. At the end of the assembly, each kids was given a punch card to use at the lunchtime salad bar. Every time they eat from the salad bar they get their card punched. When they accumulate enough punches by the end of the challenge, they’ll be awarded a certificate recognizing their participation. We’re hoping that by creating an ongoing challenge, it will keep the topic on their minds until they become habituated to eating healthfully.
Are you intending to make this presentation at other schools?
Yes! It was an awesome experience. If you know of an elementary school you’d like us to visit with ourWhat’s Good To Eat? assembly please reach out to us! Contact Lisa Boymann at 212-645-5170, extension 104.