I just finished watching the third part of HBO’s Weight of the Nation, Children in Crisis, and I am both enraged and inspired.
I am enraged that the current generation of children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents because of the childhood obesity epidemic and simultaneously inspired to continue cooking and working with students to get them excited about cooking. It has never been more important to provide children with an understanding of the positive and negative affects food can have on their bodies.
Today’s children are missing a healthy connection and engagement with food. Additionally, there are other factors compounding this problem: physical education programs are either poor or nonexistent throughout the country; cooking and nutrition classes are lacking within the public school system and school lunch programs (non-Red Rabbit, of course) are outrageously unhealthy.
On Friday, June 15, Red Rabbit had the pleasure of having students from New Height’s Academy Charter School cooking in our kitchen. Ms. Rosen’s 5th grade English class were amazing chefs, creating an Italian feast to enjoy with their classmates, teachers and Red Rabbit’s education team. After a tour of the kitchen and an overview of what we would be cooking for the day, the team of young chefs got to work making a summer vegetable pizza with a sweet spring salad and orange mint iced tea. Everything was created from scratch, as is the Red Rabbit way. Students not only made and kneaded whole-wheat pizza dough, they also made fresh tomato sauce and homemade iced tea by steeping mint leaves. They had a great time, even if a few were covered in flour!
The lab had already begun before the students even entered Red Rabbit’s office
doors,since I had sent Ms. Rosen an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Michael Pollan’sThe Omnivore’s Dilemma, Young Readers Edition. I followed this assigned reading with a few questions relating to the slow food movement, the culture of food and the joy of cooking. This was a great way for the students to connect food with their health, culture and world.
There is no question that winter has officially arrived in New York! As we bundle ourselves and our children for the cold, windy weather and minimize our time outdoors for running to the subway, bus, or catching a cab, it’s a good reminder that we also are limiting the time we spend doing physical activities.
I know, we hear it often....physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. In combination with eating healthy, whole foods, physical activity can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke, which are the three leading causes of death in the United States. Physical activity also helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development and decreases the risk of obesity.
When it comes to children and physical activity—they need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight, though it doesn’t need to be all at one time. Living in New York apartments in the middle of winter often makes this a challenge. So, it’s time to get creative!
Here are a few fun, physical activities to get your children off the couch and using their natural youthful energy.
● Snow, Snow, Snow!
In the spirit of finding alternate ways of commemorating Valentine’s Day, and to follow up on Sandy’s blog post last week about treat ideas that don't mean consuming tons of candy, I would like to share some alternative gift ideas. Think outside of the box.....of chocolates! You don't have to turn to sugar to shower those you love with sweet treats in honor of the month of love! Kind gestures/gifts can be equally as nice, or even better!
As candy and chocolate last only a moment, these gifts can last forever…your loved one will be able to remember your thoughtfulness, generosity, as well as the time and effort you spent to make their day that much more special. Here are a few ideas to give you some inspiration:
- Homemade card with construction paper and a personal note: think how much Grandma, Mom, or Dad would love to see your creativity and skill!
- Framing one of your favorite photos: what a great way to “capture the moment” and remember a special memory you shared with your loved one.
- Painting something at a pottery painting venue (like a bowl, or a picture frame!...something that would get used or displayed and remind the person of your effort and creativity)