By Grace Horgan
One great way to capture someone’s attention is with a sample of free food. I found this to be true with kids and adults during my two week community rotation with FSNE (Food Supplemental Nutrition Education FSNE). FSNE provides nutrition education for Maryland residents that are eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. During this rotation, I first learned all about FSNE and what services they provide in the community. Then I went into the field, helping to provide nutrition education to both students at an elementary school and customers at a food bank. FSNE reaches Maryland residents of all ages.
I was a little nervous walking into an elementary school to teach a second grade class about nutrition and MyPlate. I didn’t really know what to expect. Were they going to know what I was talking about? Would they be interested in what I had to say? The FSNE nutrition educators were each assigned to different elementary schools throughout the state and conducted education sessions once a month. On our first school visit with one of the educators, my partner, Claire, and I taught the students about MyPlate and then made a “MyPlate salsa.” The salsa had components of each food group from MyPlate except dairy; black beans (protein), mango (fruit), tomato salsa (vegetable) and we served it with tortilla chips (grains). Claire and I built the salsa with the students and discussed each ingredient. The students were asked to determine which food group they belonged to. All the students were required to try one bite of the food that was being served that day. They have a special rule in the classroom called “Don’t Yuck my Yum,” where students are not allowed to say “yuck” after trying the food.
One of the most surprising parts of my visit to the school was that all the students in grades K-2 knew what MyPlate was and were familiar with all the food groups. After our first three class sessions that day, I noticed all of the students in each class also knew the educator by name. I was impressed because they only see the nutrition educator once a month. It appeared their nutrition lessons were something they really looked forward to each month. Thinking back to my grade school experience, I tried to remember when I had learned about basic nutrition and I don’t think it was until Middle School or High School. I think it is extremely valuable that these children are learning practical nutrition information at such a young age. It can build a strong foundation of wellness for their future. Additionally, they can bring some great nutritional information home to their parents or guardians.
During another one of our days at FSNE, we were able to help out at the Howard County Food Bank. Once or twice a month the FSNE educators go to their assigned county’s food bank to provide samples of a low cost recipe. The recipe consists of items that customers can get at that food bank that day. The educators display the food items in the recipe so customers know exactly what is needed. On our day at the food bank, we offered samples of a vegetable crockpot stew. The customers really enjoyed this and some even came back for seconds! I was extremely surprised at how organized and clean the food bank was. There was a wide variety of food, including several frozen items and numerous gluten-free foods.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with FSNE. The educators were very welcoming and allowed us to get hands-on experience teaching the students and even adding our own twist to things. It was really incredible to see how big of an impact FSNE had on the community. The FSNE programs give children and their families sound nutritional education and encourages them to make healthy choices.