Katherine Feyen, Kirsten Arme, Caity Neinow and Eliza Short – students (Wisconsin)

This summer, four nutrition and dietetics students from Viterbo University in Wisconsin have volunteered their time to plan, create, and teach garden nutrition lessons to children at the local La Crosse Boys and Girls Club in their garden. With help from Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wis. and the Viterbo University Enactus Club, the children at the Boys and Girls Club are learning how to plant, grow, maintain and harvest their own produce. The Nutrition and Dietetics students teach the children how to connect the garden to nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Along with the garden lessons, the children will have the opportunity to plan and prepare healthy snacks using the produce from their garden in an August cooking class, held at Viterbo University. Because it is also important to get parents involved, a family night will also be held at the garden in August including a cooking demonstration using Mayo Clinic’s mobile kitchen. A partnership between Viterbo Nutrition and Dietetics students, Viterbo’s Enactus Club, and Mayo Clinic Health System has allowed the children at the La Crosse Boys and Girls Club to learn healthy nutrition and lifestyle behaviors through a hands-on approach, which will benefit the children and their families for a lifetime.

Tarrah DeClemente, MPH, RDN, LDN (Illinois)

Providing the nearly 400,000 students in Chicago Public Schools with healthy food daily is not only my profession but my passion. At CPS we implement a farm to school approach to nutrition education and healthy eating. Students learn about healthy foods in the classroom, grow them in over 400 school gardens and enjoy them in the dining center. We aim to serve local, fresh options as often as possible and pair these serve dates with farmer visits to our students. CPS recently completed an “Ingredients of Concern” list aimed at removing unhealthy ingredients from foods served in order to provide our students with wholesome options and make them healthy, knowledgeable consumers.

Amanda Gallaher, MPH, RD (Michigan)

As the only Registered Dietitian with the Association for Child Development, I’m in the unique position of offering nutrition technical assistance and training to nearly 4,000 child care providers across Michigan and Illinois. It’s a privilege to work with such a committed and passionate group of caregivers! As one of the largest sponsors of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, we help ensure that tens of thousands of children in child care have access to nutritious meals and snacks. The cooking classes and nutrition workshops we offer help child care providers meet and exceed the CACFP nutrition standards. With the new CACFP nutrition standards on the horizon, we are up for the challenge! In addition, we are taking active steps to reach underserved communities and break down language barriers for the Hispanic child care providers we serve. We offer all publications in both English and Spanish, and we recently offered one of our first nutrition trainings in Spanish with the support of our Spanish Translator on staff! I’m inspired everyday by the creativity and ingenuity of the child care providers we serve and all that they do to help children establish healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Charles Kite, RD, LDN (Illinois)

I’m one of a group of registered dietitian nutritionists that handle all things nutrition for Head Start in the city of Chicago. We help interpret and write policy, provide training and are boots on the ground community nutritionists, working with kids, parents and staff to help everyone in Head Start EatRight!

Lisa Krayer, RDN, CD (Wisconsin)

I help kids to be healthy through a program called “Stir It Up Sauk Prairie.” I work with 4th grade students at Tower Rock Elementary School in Sauk Prairie, Wis. by leading a cooking session once a month during the school year with a co-worker. We take a few students from the classroom to prepare a recipe that features fruits and vegetables and have them make enough for their entire class to sample. The goal of “Stir It Up Sauk Prairie” is to boost the fruit and vegetable intake of children while providing education on the health benefits of the fruits and vegetables used in the recipe. After our first year of this fun, hands-on program, we’ve seen a 44% improvement in their nutrition knowledge and an 18% improvement in their preference for fruits and vegetables. The program is supported by a grant from the Healthy Classrooms Foundation and by Sauk Prairie Healthcare.

Judy Lazo, RD (New Jersey)

One of the things I do now that I’m retired is work at Urban Promise Ministries in Camden, New Jersey. I am part of a wellness grant through a Horizon Health Care Grant. My part of the grant is to conduct monthly taste tests with the student body. The students are surveyed to see if they like or dislike the new recipe and then they name it in hopes of increasing consumption of the food. One of the discoveries I made is that the students didn’t like raw broccoli. When I made a Penne’ Pasta recipe with broccoli or topped it with cheese sauce the students will consume it. The other part of the grant is nutrition education. I visit each class at least once during the year and sit down with the students at lunch to talk about food. I rewrote the menus and instead of 0% scratch cooking we are now at over 60% using the USDA What’s Cooking Recipes.

Taylor Newman, student (Florida)

After realizing the significant impact nutrition education had during a research trip to India, I came home and developed a nutrition education program at my old elementary school in Tallahassee, Fla. With the help of a dedicated teacher, Mr. Rwito, I established a school garden and intertwined garden activities with weekly nutrition education lessons that ranged from discussing how plants grow to how to read a food nutrition label. The now annual program has even extended to a Wellness Summer Camp. My favorite quote from one of my students who tried a garden-fresh carrot: “I never knew vegetables could taste so good!”

Debbie Petitpain, MS, RDN (South Carolina)

The hospital where I work – the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC – last year became the first hospital in the southeast region to participate in USDA’s summer feeding program (SFSP). We offer free breakfast and lunch seven days a week to children during the 10 weeks of summer in all three of our cafeterias. This year, we partnered with the Lowcountry Food Bank, I Heart Hungry Kids and Molina Healthcare to start a summer feeding option at the MUSC Urban Farm, a ½ acre “living classroom” on our medical campus. All children ages 18 and under can eat for free from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. every Saturday during summer. There are free health checks for adults and fun and games for all!

Mary Riggins, MS, RD, CDE (Virginia)

This summer I had the unique opportunity to help children learn how to eat right by providing nutrition lessons at two day camps. The first day camp was specifically for youth in Southwest Virginia with Type 1 Diabetes. Along with hiking, swimming and crafts, we included lessons on portion control, meal preparation, gardening and fueling our body. I planned and directed the camps to include community organizations in our Nutrition Action Network including a local pediatrician, the community garden, Lifetime Wellness Center, dietetic and medical students and was supported by Smyth County Community Hospital. Two Virginia Tech Dietetic students and I taught lessons on the importance of reducing intake of sugary beverages to children at risk for diabetes during the second day camp.

We also taught the same lesson to children at a local school during an end of the year family night. Each year we have increased our community outreach and have had excellent response. Their parents have since reported how their children have gone to great lengths to care for their new gardens and plan meals with their new vegetables. We hope to continue helping children learn how to eat right through more day camps and after school programs this year.

Paulette Weir, RD (New York)

It was approximately eight years ago when I created a not-for-profit organization with the mission to provide a brand new pair of shoes for underprivileged children. It also gave me a chance to use the Kids Eat Right platform for my passionate commitment to health and fitness and to find a viable way to educate the children and their families about the benefits of eating well. Our “Youth In Action” campaign have been built around eating wholesome foods and avoiding sugary drinks. In addition, a group of motivated women began to develop interest, eager for more involvement in our communities. Working with Choose To Care, they enthusiastically lead, educate and inform the children and their families about healthy food choices. They are dubbed “Nutritionists And Friends In Action.” For example, last summer, with the abundance of fruits and vegetables, we took the opportunity to build a “mock” farmers’ market, and in March as spring approached, we linked our teaching to new growth. The kids planted tomato seeds in a cup to grow on the windowsill at home. We provide simple healthy guidelines that everyone can live by, making it easier for them to take a hold of and make the move to a healthier lifestyle. The purpose of CHOOSE TO CARE beyond issuing a brand new pair of shoes to the underprivileged child, is to assist the youth in building confidence and empower them to become agents of change.