How did you get connected with Junior League?
I was approached because of my role as a dietitian of this store and being the community dietitian. My mission and role are to help people be as healthy as they possibly can and be included. I think just finding different outlets, friends, and people who are part of this community. When I first started here, I got as many contacts as I possibly could and sent out mass emails telling people ‘Hey I’m here. I’m a dietitian and if you need anything let me know!’ to make collaboration and relationships with the community because that’s really my goal. The first event I was contacted as a potential partner.
What specifically working with JL stuck out? What drew you to the Kids in the Kitchen program?
JL and Kids in the Kitchen’s whole goal from what I understand is to address child obesity and get kids exposed to healthier options, trying everything, making eating healthy fun and exciting and that’s what I’m all about. I think it’s great to be partnering with organizations that are so well embedded in the community already and that really drew me to that to because (JL) is a very organized organization that has been in the industry for a long time. That’s why I believe it would be a great collaboration for me.
Anything in the future you have in mind with JL? Any potential partnerships in the future?
I’m open to anything! I really am! As far as programs and things, I love what we do here to have people come interaction with different stations with snacks, apples, and fruits. I don’t know about bridging out with JL to offer something to women or mom specifically, but I do teach my own cooking classes. While JL is more geared towards kids, my classes are geared towards the parents and how to provide healthy choices and dealing with picky eaters. A lot things I get asked by moms is how to stay healthy, quick easy meals, meal prepping, and all that good stuff.
Any favorite recipes from the program?
It’s not a recipe but the last one we did was four different kinds of apples. It was really cool because we had different kinds of dipping sauces. The kids tried every single one of them and voted which of them were their favorite. We had it all on a board and drawn out. That was my favorite because it was watching the kids trying and experimenting. A lot of the parents saw their children eat everything and was surprised to find that that their kids liked it because they could never get their children to try anything. It was great for the kids be independent to try and vote for what they like. The parents were surprised by watching their kids try anything. They really enjoyed it and the parents returned to buy some more apples.
When you do these workshops, are the parents just as engaged or are the kids more independent?
So we had different stations set up throughout. We had a big table where they could make their own trail mixes. I like to add whole grain cereal, popcorn, mini chocolate chips, dried fruit, and nuts. We really really encourage kids to do it by themselves. It depends on the parents and kids. We were there to help the kids rather than the parents, but it all depends because some kids are very shy and young so some parents may be more involved. The older kids are allowed to do be more independent because it was more for them to be comfortable to be around food and choosing what do they like.
Have any families brought knowledge taken from these classes back into their own kitchen at home?
I have some parents that are recurring customers and they continue to tell me how much they and the kids enjoy it. I like to think they kept something from these classes.
Some of these classes a geared towards low-income schools, any advice on ensuring affordable but also healthy meals?
My background in undergrad is human resources. We focused on accessibility and I think that is really important for everything because everybody has that in mind, but especially a common misconception of eating well is that it can be very expensive. Fruits and vegetable are the main focus. My plate guideline is to have half the plate fruits and vegetable. That is where I like to start people when I am recommending healthy eating practice. 90% of the people are not getting the recommended fruits and veggies. We’re really good at eating meat and really good at eating refined carbohydrates and sweets, but not so much whole grain, fruits, and veggies. Focusing that all forms of fruits and veggies are important meaning not only fresh but canned and frozen as well. There so much nutritional noise out there and misconceptions that canned food is bad for you. No, I rather you eat canned corn if that’s the only vegetable available. I really think educating all the different ways you can eat well: eating in season, looking for those deals, and not wasting food. Incorporating that knowledge and information is important to gauge parents. The recipes we give to kids are from thebetterhealthstore.org. They are very budget friendly.