Santa Barbara’s youngest foodies “FLIP” for good nutrition in Foodbank’s
Food Literacy in Preschool Program at Storyteller Children’s Center
Four-year-old Amy is a self proclaimed fan of pears. She loves learning about fruits and vegetables, and especially enjoys participating in fun activities like making recipes with her family using fresh produce from Foodbank’s Food Literacy in Preschool (FLIP) program. FLIP serves a dual purpose: delivering short-term food assistance and providing nutrition education.
Amy is one of the 24 preschoolers (plus 20 toddlers) who attend Storyteller Children’s Center, a childcare center for homeless and at-risk children from 18 months to 5 years of age.
Every month, she looks forward to Foodbank’s FLIP program held at Storyteller.
“I liked making apple juice and apple spirals last time and today’s pear smoothie is yummy,” said Amy.
On a recent Thursday, as crisp fall fruits come into season, the kids at Storyteller received a hands-on lesson in crafting a healthy pear snack.
Gathered around a munchkin-sized table, the kids eagerly descended on the bounty of fresh, local Comice pears – sourced and delivered by Foodbank.
The boisterous class grew quiet in concentration as Amy and her classmates, with help from Storyteller teacher Maria Lopez and Foodbank’s Community Nutrition Program Coordinator Erin Hansen, began earnestly slicing the fruit using kid-friendly tools. The hubbub swelled again as the dozen Lilliputian chefs continued mixing and blending the ingredients – pears, bananas, orange juice, vanilla yogurt and ice cubes – to complete today’s recipe, joyfully dubbed “Pear-adise Smoothies.”
“It’s so important for us to empower kids to make nutritious choices and learn about the diversity of nutritious foods from a young age,” said Erin Hansen. “Incorporating healthy foods into their lives early, increases their ability to become healthy adults.”
This is one of the few times during the month Amy gets this type of exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables. Amy is one of nearly 50,000 local children who are provided with nutritious food and education through Foodbank direct programs or Foodbank’s 330+ nonprofit partners like Storyteller. Many families in Amy’s situation wish they could eat more fruits and vegetables, but might not initially buy them on their own because of the expense. And 71% of families served by the Foodbank must make heartbreaking choices of buying food or paying for housing, utilities, transportation, clothing and other basic necessities.
After each month’s FLIP lesson the children get to take home a bag of the featured produce to their families. FLIP is the first step in Foodbank’s “Feed the Future” continuum of programs, and helps drive one of the Foodbank’s key strategies: to reach families in our communities through their children. Kids bring their new-found knowledge – and in the case of FLIP, the fresh produce – back to their families, inspiring families to come together to try out new recipes and eat more nutritiously.
“We see that our kids are a tremendous influence on their families, said Rob Grayson Development Director for Storyteller. “This is especially so when they are excited about a fun new recipe they’ve learned and want to show their parents and siblings how to make it. The whole family gets to incorporate a healthy new meal or snack into their regular diet.”
FLIP is currently offered at six school-based, preschool and early childcare centers throughout Santa Barbara County.
“It’s a great partnership working with Foodbank,” said Grayson. “For our kids, the meals they get here are often times the most well-rounded and nutritious meals they get in a day, and FLIP also creates this opportunity to stretch this vital health resource into a lifetime of healthy choices.”
“Storyteller is committed to transforming the lives of some of our most vulnerable families by providing children the earliest start to break through generational cycles of poverty,” said Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank. “It is an honor to work side by side as we, too, provide tools to help families break through cycles of poor nutrition to create a healthy future for all.”
Locally, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County serves 144,000 low-income, below federal poverty level individuals in Santa Barbara County (one if four of our total population), many of them working families, children and seniors. For more information about FLIP and other Foodbank programs, visit www.foodbanksbc.org.