Healthy Harvest Happy Kids

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This project seeks to increase healthy and balanced vegetable servings to youth and their families. It will also demonstrate the simplicity and thrift of eating healthy local food. The participant evaluations will provide insight into the needs for nutritional outreach and community food system education.

With all the current research and emphasis on child obesity and lack of healthy eating, many initiatives are emerging but few actually evaluate recipes and if families enjoy incorporating nutritious food in their diet. We hope to provide useful, appetizing options for the vegetable segment of the new USDA plate method. The project personnel will distribute easy to prepare meal packages, in reusable grocery bags, for program participants. The packages will include two recipes and the main ingredients for a minimum of eight vegetable servings. Participants that complete and return the evaluation will receive a 50% discount coupon for the following meal.

The vegetable servings will be simple to prepare by following the easy to use recipe. Each bag will contain three to four seasonal vegetables along with accompanying condiments. The servings will be packaged in reusable grocery bags that display the UWEX log and project title. Educational literature will provide the nutritional benefits, raise awareness of the seasonal availability of the produce, and promote farmers markets.

The project will be a three part collaboration between the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (UWEX) urban agriculture department, UWEX nutrition department, and the volunteer operated food buying club SHARE Wisconsin. The UWEX urban agriculture department is interested in increasing capacity for local growers through increased consumption by youth. For this project the urban agriculture department will coordinate the produce packages, the development of the recipes/evaluations and provide an educational pamphlet on seasonally available produce.

The UWEX nutrition department seeks to use this project as an opportunity to provide nutritional outreach to families, to develop a list of “kid-proven” recipes, and to market UWEX nutrition programs. For this project, the nutrition department will develop the recipes, create an informative nutrition pamphlet to accompany each meal package, and assist in the development of evaluations.

The SHARE Wisconsin program offers its food buying club members a monthly pick-up as well a mobile food mart. The SHARE infrastructure will be utilized to market the project with demographically varied families, distribute the suggested vegetable servings, and collect the completed evaluations.

The key to this project is the evaluation. It is targeted to both parents and kids. Kids will be strongly encouraged to be involved in the preparation of these nutritious side dishes. The goal of the evaluation is to determine:
  • The value of the meal to kids and adults and a list of favorites
  • To find prioritized list of favorite dishes
  • The motivating factors for participants to choose to eat healthy
  • What barriers are associated with healthy eating
  • Where does healthy eating occur in our community, demographically and geographically
  • Do participants have access to local food
  • Do people buy locally produced food items
  • What are the challenges of buying locally produced food
  • If people are interested in learning how to grow their own food