Kids are involved in all kinds of clubs these days—sports clubs, drama clubs, book clubs, chess clubs. One Iowa urban ministry even offers a food club – where students dig, build, cook and eat.
Digging and building? Doesn’t exactly sound like what you’d expect from a food club, right?
Improving nutrition from the ground up, club members construct their own raised gardens, sow seeds, water, weed and harvest a variety of vegetables and fruits. And what they do with their bounty, well, it’s nothing short of amazing.
Supported by FoodCorps, a national non-profit agency staffed with young adult volunteers, Food Club is just one example of the growing educational experiences centered on agriculture and health.
“Getting their hands dirty engages their senses and sparks their curiosity,” says Mauricio Rosas-Alvarez, a FoodCorps service member. “Students begin to notice why they eat what they eat and how their food makes them feel. They realize where their food comes from.”
Growing their own food also changes attitudes. Kids begin to view fruits and vegetables as fun, fostering a willingness to give new foods second or third try.
And try they do. A student of nutrition and culinary arts, Mauricio shows kids how to build delicious meals with fresh ingredients plucked right from the garden. “It’s all about the ingredients when you’re cooking a recipe. The best tasting foods are ones that are really, really fresh.” So with his instruction, students make and eat dishes such as Caprese salad, sopas, gyros, even popcorn. “Food becomes you,” says Mauricio. “When you eat food that is the best, your body will operate the best.”
His FoodCorps partner, Daniel Schultz, couldn’t agree more. “I dealt with my own weight issues as a kid,” he says.
Although active and engaged in many sports as a child, Daniel found himself 60 pounds overweight as a sophomore in high school. “Poor food choices led to my weight gain,” he reports. “Although I heard messaging in health class about eating right, I couldn’t find anybody inspirational for support when I wanted to make a healthy change.”
Growing desperate, he asked his mom to buy diet pills, shakes and even an exercise machine to work on his abs.
Over time Daniel lost weight by implementing his own nutrition and exercise plan, which included eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and less pre-packaged foods “I felt better. I was more self-confident. I enjoyed school, had better attendance and good grades. And, I smiled more.”
Now he shares his experience. “I hope to inspire kids as a role model, showing them that change can happen if you are motivated.”
Kids in Food Club and other programs supported by FoodCorps do have a different outlook on food. They eat dishes like broccoli and hummus, tomato and pepper frittatas, and proudly tote a bountiful harvest of kale home to share with their families.
Establishing healthy routines and making healthy food choices a part of everyday life is the crop Daniel, Mauricio, and others with FoodCorps work to reap—for students of all ages.
For more information about FoodCorps’ outreach in Iowa and around the U.S, or to volunteer with FoodCorps, check out: www.foodcorps.org.
Oh, and one more thing, in case you’re wondering: The first rule of Food Club, say Mauricio and Daniel, always eat your fruits and vegetables!