Using science based knowledge, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program has spent the summer months teaching the many different aspects of healthy eating and exercise to the participants in the YMCA of Paterson Summer Camp Program. Two times a week for six weeks, mentors from the program have been guiding our 5-12 year olds in the importance of family mealtimes, the My Plate Icon, and different ways that more fruits and vegetables can be included in their daily diet.
Many families don’t eat together because they don’t have time to cook or don’t even know how to cook. There are families that have the television on during dinner and many even eat in front of the television. The campers were explained that eating together builds a sense of family unity and that family conversations help deter depression, use of illegal drugs, and eating disorders.
The looks on the campers’ faces was priceless when it was explained that half of their plates should be filled with fruits and vegetables, that dinners should be started with either a green salad or a vegetable soup, and that more vegetables and less cheese should cover their pizza. The priceless faces changed to enthusiasm when the children expressed that they wouldn’t mind choosing the family’s fruits and vegetables for the week or adding chopped onions and broccoli to a jar of spaghetti.
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program has helped create a rainbow through every visit and through the introduction of all the colors that different fruits and vegetables have. The next step is for these children to stretch these rainbows into their homes with their families.