“Food for Health” is a series of 12 classes intended to make nutrition more fun by involving parents and their children in all facets of food – from planting seeds and nurturing a garden to cooking and eating.
The free classes are being sponsored by the Ministry Door County Medical Center (MDCMC) Women’s and Children’s Health Center and the Community’s Garden. The medical center is partnering with the UW-Extension Door County office, area organic gardeners and local chefs in the program that begins Tuesday, April 12.
Parents and their children, ages 8 to 15, will participate in the entire series. Classes will take place from 3:30 to 5 pm on April 12 and 26; May 10 and 24; June 14 and 28; July 12 and 26; August 9 and 23; and September 6 and 20. Classes will be held at various locations including the MDCMC conference center, the Community Garden (on 16th Avenue across the street from the medical center) and at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
Each session encourages parents and their children to get involved with these healthy food steps and others:
- starting a plant from seed;
- transplanting the plant as it grows;
- planting in the garden;
- caring for the garden;
- harvesting the food; and
- cooking and eating the food (the last three classes).
Participants will grow and eventually prepare peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, carrots and more.
“The idea is to make nutrition more fun for kids,” says Jennifer Fischer, MDCMC’s director of women’s and children’s health services. “Kids will come away with an understanding of what fresh food is, where you can get it and how to prepare it. It’s going to be an extremely unique and cool class. I’m excited about it,” says Fischer.
Dr. Amy Fogarty, a pediatrician affiliated with North Shore Medical Clinic and medical advisor to Food for Health, said the program is important today as kids are often far removed from food production and have difficulty understanding what goes into growing the food they see in the grocery store.
“French fries are the number one consumed vegetable – if you can call them that – for kids. Most children don’t even recognize many of the fruits and vegetables in their raw form,” Fogarty says.
“The Food for Health program allows kids to participate actively in planting, growing, harvesting and preparing their own food. Studies have shown the more involved kids are in preparing the food, the more likely they are to eat it,” Fogarty continues. Studies also point out that ages 8 to 15 is a good time to get kids to develop healthy eating habits that can last into their young adult years.
Jennifer Spude is a nutrition coordinator at UW-Extension, which help to establish the Community Garden (along with MDCMC, the City of Sturgeon Bay and other participating organizations). Spude and Gina Newton, nutrition educator at MDCMC, will be teaching some of the classes.
“When families learn together, try new foods together and include those foods in a life together, habits start to form. Good habits of eating and exercise will help to limit overweight in our families and our communities,” she says.
“MDCMC has purchased program related materials and equipment – including a light system for nurturing the plants,” says Fischer, who adds that grant funds may be available in the future.
Food for Health, along with Art for Health, is part of the Women and Children’s Health Center’s commitment to extending health offerings to children, young adolescents, teenagers and women in Door County, Fischer says.
“There is a national movement toward teaching our kids to eat healthier. We are all fighting an uphill battle, as the environment kids grow up in is filled with television commercials showing foods filled with sugar and corn oil,” Fischer says.
“We need to close the loop, instead of just telling kids they should eat healthier, the Food for Health program will show them how,” she adds.
Fogarty says the program is consistent with her approach to patient care. She has been in practice since 2009 after graduating from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
“It’s such a wonderful program and so in tune with what I am trying to do as a pediatrician,” Fogarty says. “It’s not just about diagnosing ear infections, but also about preventative care and teaching healthy choices that will last into adulthood.”