Food Literacy Center
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Food Literacy Center provides free food literacy education for children in low income elementary schools.

With schools closed in response to COVID-19, we moved our cooking and nutrition curriculum online for free to reach our children. We provide weekly hands-on live video classes with downloadable lesson plans, activity sheets, and recipes on our website. Students taste fruits and vegetables, learn how to read and cook from a recipe -- and they have fun! These online classes and activities benefit the children we serve by teaching them the habit of eating their vegetables, which helps prevent diet-related diseases in this high-risk audience.

Because 30% of Sacramento students don't have internet access, we have partnered with SCUSD Nutrition Services to distribute STEM Recipe Kits filled with fresh produce to make a meal for four, plus our printed recipes, so our kids can continue learning and practice healthy behaviors. Our recipe kit is a special program focused on distributing low-cost, basic ingredients, and fresh produce so that students may follow our recipe videos to create and taste our recipes at home. The children we serve have had adverse childhood experiences, which affect lifelong health. We can help children build resilience -- the ability to cope with hard times. Providing food literacy education is critical to health. When schools reopen, this will switch to in-person instruction combined with take-home kits. In 2020, we reached 2,234 students through recipe kit distribution and 34 students through virtual food literacy classes.

Since the pandemic, food and nutrition insecurity have risen even higher in the low-income communities we serve. Children and families are currently experiencing disruptions in their lives due to COVID-19; this stress can negatively impact an individual's health and turn into trauma. California's Surgeon General COVID playbook recommends maintaining health and nutrition during this crisis to prevent stress. By creating hands-on health-focused programs, we can help children build resilience and cope with hard times.

Our objective is for kids to continue experiencing joy, prioritizing health, and preventing diet-related disease during this challenging time. In our program, students learn fruit and vegetable identification, how to read nutrition labels, cooking skills -- and they have fun! We use positive reinforcement to get kids excited about fruits and vegetables. We cook culturally appropriate recipes and integrate hands-on STEM-based activities. Our students learn and explore health education and nutrition through science experiments, recipes, and real-world projects, like making recipes and planting food from seeds that demonstrate academic subjects such as science and math. Studies show that students who practice what they're learning in a hands-on environment can often retain three and a half times as much as opposed to just sitting in a lecture and listening.

We improve kids' behavior toward healthy foods through hands-on weekly cooking lessons where students learn basic cooking skills -- like grating and measuring, and how to make recipes they can replicate at home with their families. Research indicates that cooking is the fastest method to improving kids' food literacy and consumption of fruits and vegetables. In the classroom, students learn simple ways to integrate fruits and vegetables into their diets, like swapping jelly for fresh fruit slices in their peanut butter sandwiches. All of our lessons are being rolled out online and made available for free to meet the needs of children who are out of school during the COVID-19 crisis.

$1,750 cost per school to distribute 50 STEM Recipe Kits in-person
$16,050 cost to produce 14 lessons for print and online
Program Successes
- 95% of students tasting a new fruit or vegetable weekly (prior to COVID-19).
- Cook virtually with 34 kids each month.
- Build 15 online lessons from our STEM-based curriculum.
- Create 41 virtual cooking demonstrations.
- After receiving our Oatmeal Recipe Kit, Zamiel said, "I had fun making this oatmeal recipe with my grandma, and I gave some to my dad too. Everyone liked the oatmeal with the fruit and honey. That's my story." This is behavior change! We are changing kids' attitude, knowledge and behavior toward healthy eating.
- 1,000 households: average reach per video lesson.