After school, nutrition education is in session at Kids Cafes

As a Nutrition Education Intern for Food Bank CENC’s Community Health and Engagement Department, Jacqueline Dawson travels to Kids Cafes in Edgecombe, Halifax, Lenoir, and Wilson Counties. She uses our Mobile Kitchen Kits to teach children all about healthy foods and how to prepare them.


Kids Cafes, hosted by some of our Partner Agencies, are after-school programs that offer nutritious meals, tutoring, physical activities, and mentoring to children at risk of hunger. They provide a safe and positive environment for children to gather after school. The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina supports Kids Cafes by providing the food as well as nutrition education activities.

The lesson plans she teaches consist of the five food groups represented on the USDA’s MyPlate: Fruits, grains, dairy, vegetables, and proteins. The kids loved making fruit smoothies, cinnamon yogurt dip, chicken salad, healthy snack mix, and more. Even the vegetable lesson plan was a hit! Jacqueline created a vegetable plate consisting of carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, but also made the children a surprise dish (butternut squash soufflé) and asked them to taste test it. “Much to my surprise, they loved it!” Jacqueline said. “I even had some of the parents try it and got good reviews.”

Jacqueline’s after-school lessons are sticking with the children and their families when they go home. One student’s mother told Jacqueline that when they went grocery shopping, “All her daughter did was read the labels! After we laughed, she told me to keep up the good work and she is glad her child is becoming more aware of the foods she eats,” said Jacqueline.

Knowing how to select and cook healthy foods is empowering. But many of the families face additional barriers such as limited funds to purchase healthy foods, and a lack of nearby stores that sell it. “In talking to a few parents I was told they try to focus on better food selections and try to focus on healthy foods – but the cost is a factor,” said Jacqueline. “One child kept eating the vegetable snaps and I said not to spoil his dinner. He said, ‘Mrs. D. this is my dinner.’ My heart went out to him.”

That’s where the rest of Food Bank CENC’s programs work together. We help stock shelves at over 800 local partner agencies and even pantries right inside schools across our 34-county service area, so that families can access food assistance near where they live. In addition, our Benefits Outreach Team helps people apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), securing additional dollars each month for purchasing food. Together, we’re providing children families with the knowledge, skills, and resources to break the cycle of hunger.

YOUR TURN

More than 60% of the funding we receive to support programs like after-school nutrition education comes from generous individuals, like you. No gift is too small, and through March 31 your gift goes twice as far towards making sure children in our community have the food and knowledge they need.