The February 2012 issue of Salt Lake Magazine led with the provocative cover headline: “Kids Busting at the Seams: Utah’s Obesity Epidemic”. I couldn’t help but pick up a copy at the newstand, since Slow Food Utah is very concerned about this trend and we seek ways to promote better food in schools, such as with school gardens and taste education for children, as well as adults. Obesity is a complex issue with many related likely causes, from the widespread availability and subsidized costs of high calorie, processed foods to steadily decreasing activity levels both at school and in our everyday lives, to possible effects of chemical pollutants in our environment and our bodies.
So I was pleased to read Mary Brown Malouf’s timely piece and find that Slow Food Utah’s partnership with Harmon’s was featured as one of the local solutions to help address this critical issue.
This is the third year Koehler’s first graders have had Teach to Taste as part of their regular curriculum, and she loves the program. cooperatively developed by Harmons and Utah Slow Food’s Christi Paulson (herself an elementary school teacher), Teach to Taste is a year-long program designed to teach kids basic nutrition, how taste works and where their food comes from. In 2010, Paulson received the 2010 Agriculture in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award, and Teach to Taste sprang form the classroom practices for which she received this award.
You can read the full piece about the Teach To Taste program as featured in the article here.
Former Slow Food Utah leader Christi Paulson created the program to help overcome lack of access for many children to nutritious foods, and to taste buds conditioned to prefer processed food over whole, nutritious foods.
Chef Brian Ralph of the Salt Lake Head Start program is working on this, too, as described in an accompanying feature in the same issue. As he says:
“It usually takes about three times for the kids to develop a taste for a new dish,” Ralph says. “What we don’t do is offer another option.” Other school dietitians call him for advice and recipes. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, our kids won’t drink plain milk,'” he says. “And I say, that’s because you offer them chocolate – and strawberry-flavored milk. Change the choice: offer them milk or water. It’s all about learning to make the right choices,” says Ralph. “Kids aren’t really capable of that, so you have to help them along.”
Would you like to help improve access to healthy foods and lessons about good food for kids? Contact current Slow Food Utah leader Gwen Crist to find out how you can get involved.