After-school program has children excited about vegetables

 Kinnaman Elementary School students eat a vegetable snack after learning about healthy food choices. 

"I get to try new foods," said Iman. "I like it and I think it's fun."

"The part I like the most is when we cook food," said David. "Because then we get to eat it."

David and Iman are students at Kinnaman Elementary School in Aloha, where they participate in an after-school program that teaches youngsters about healthy choices and how to cook nutritious, simple meals. Iman especially enjoyed the tiny snack sandwiches they got to make recently with cream cheese and carrots. 

The Oregon State University Extension partners with nonprofit Impact Northwest's SHINE Community Schools program, which offers students after-school and summer programming based on individual academic needs. 

After school, SHINE program participants enjoy a meal, recess, reading time and homework help. OSU Extension's Matilde Rodriguez then leads the third through fifth graders in fun games and activities that teach students about fruits and vegetables. The youth also help Rodriguez cook a simple meal or prepare a healthy snack through the Kids in the Kitchen curriculum.

"They're always asking me, "is it cooking time yet?" Rose Ascencio, co-coordinator of SHINE's healthy food program at Kinnaman. 

"We really appreciate that they're introduced to healthy nutrition," said Jessica Beck, SHINE Supervisor for Kinnaman elementary school. "They get to try out fun new recipes, take them home and share with their families." 
Students enjoy fruits and vegetables after school. 

Rodriguez brings ingredients each week and helps the children build skills and a recipe. Over the past five years of the program  it is clear that taking on responsibilities in the kitchen to prepare food engages the young people, and they are much more likely to take an interest in food choices. Although this is the first year at Kinnaman, Extension has provided programming at Barnes, Beaver Acres and William Walker SHINE programs also.

The class helps the children "grow their vocabulary and introduces them to new vegetables," Beck said. "It informs their food selections in the cafeteria and how they go about making choices." 

Beck remembers one girl who didn't know what green beans were before enrolling in the program, but became excited about the variety of vegetables they were enjoying.

Ascencio has also witnessed children become more conscious about what they eat during the few weeks they're in the class. Recently, she saw two children reading labels during lunch. Seeing students use their learning whenever they choose is meeting a primary objective of the program.

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