Through art, games, and other engaging activities, the Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion (CPHP) is changing the way students think about food.
From the Office of Community Engagement at UIC, this group partners with CPS and Aramark to present "Foods of the Month" – a program that gets students to learn about and try healthy foods they may never have tasted.
"The idea is to influence them just as they're about to make a food choice," said Shirley Vouris, Coordinator for the Foods of the Month program. "If we can catch them right there in the lunch line, they're more likely to take a risk and try a fruit or vegetable."
Over the past several months, CPHP has reached over 12,000 CPS students in 39 schools, making lunchtime fun while teaching healthy lifestyle habits. Broccoli, which was January's Food of the Month, saw students at Cook Elementary designing posters as part of a broccoli art competition. The art exhibit featured work by Cook's second and third grade students, and included a reception complete with healthy refreshments such as apple juice, cheese, and of course, broccoli.
"We absolutely loved the art projects and have them displayed throughout our school," said Cook principal Simone Griffin. "This event was a fantastic opportunity for our students to explore healthy eating. CPHP made it fun for them, and had an impact that I believe will make them more likely to try new foods and eat healthy in the future."
In a cafeteria taste test conducted throughout January, students District wide preferred raw broccoli to cooked, and were even more enthusiastic about February's Food of the Month theme, which was breakfast. The nutrition experts from CPHP focused on the importance of milk and other calcium-rich foods, playing games like "Does Your Nose Know?", which challenged students to identify a fruit or vegetable's flavor just from its aroma. Several schools were also treated to a visit by Hearty the Heart, the CPHP mascot.
"It's about bringing nutrition information to students in a fun and creative way," said Shirley Vouris. "We sit down with them at lunchtime for a conversation, not for a lecture. And though the interaction is brief, it can have an amazing impact. We look forward to more exciting events in March, where the Food of the Month is celery."
Information on CPHP's nutrition education and outreach programs can be found at www.cphp.uic.edu.