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UCCE Alameda Helps Change The Culture In Preschools.

The Issue

Family food security is important in the quest to increase the consumption of healthy foods. Rasmussen, et.al. 2006 literature review examined the “determinants of fruit and vegetable consumption among children and adolescents”. They reported that the key determinants of fruits and vegetable intake are gender, age, socio-economic position, food preferences, parental intake, and availability or accessibility in the home. Families with limited funds need critical life skills to help them manage their resources smartly to pay their bills and feed their families. Preschool teachers in the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) started early trying to teach preschoolers some of the basic concepts of how to manage limited food dollars.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE and Alameda County Nutrition Services helped develop wellness policies in 14 preschool sites, and 12 have policies in place. Teachers and staff participated in a year-long wellness policy development and approval process. UCCE provided education to teachers on reducing sugar, shopping wisely and reading food labels, making water more available to the children, offering healthy snacks, using fruit and vegetable tastings as snacks, making healthy eating fun, and integrating nutrition and physical activity into classrooms. As UCCE worked with teachers to approve and set the newly developed policies in place, a priority goal for schools was to increase fruit and vegetable intake. At UCCE’s check-in meetings the teachers also discussed what was possible and how to incorporate activities that had been tried at other preschools. This These discussions led teachers at HUSD to institute smart shopping hands-on experiences to teach the preschool children basic skills in managing the food dollar -- getting the most for their money.

The Payoff

Preschoolers Learned Smart Shopping Skills

HUSD with 20 Teachers, 24 Aids, and 725 children, demonstrated how policy adoption helped teachers, parent, and children change the school culture to reinforce healthy eating. Teachers discussed increasing fruits and vegetables in the classroom and changed what they purchased and served at meal and snack time. They organized hands-on activities that emphasized fresh food, the source of food in stores, tasting new foods, and learning smart-shopping skills. Children were taken on 4 four field trips to farmers’ markets throughout the year to expose them to food fresh from the farm, to taste new fruits and vegetables and to become aware of the food prices. Teachers organized one farmers’ market at school to reinforce smart shopping skills with produce donated from the school community. Many subjects were interwoven into the Farmers Market Day. The children learned colors, shapes, textures, and taste, and how fruits and vegetables grow. They covered math – counting, number identification, and language, by using “food bucks” They kept track of the “food bucks” they earned, the cost of different produce and decided how much they could afford. Smart shopping is one of the major life skills UCCE educators teach low- income adults and youth throughout the state to help families eat a healthy diet on limited food dollars. Spending wisely helps families reduce food insecurity, and when preschool children begin to learn the importance of these life skills early, it helps to build a foundation for healthy families and communities now and for the future. HUSD plans to make these money management experiences regular events to build on lessons learned and continue to contribute to changing the culture of preschools to lay a foundation early for life skills that support healthy eating and food security.

Clientele Testimonial

“The Farmers market took a lot of preparation but it was worth it! There were many learning opportunities offered on nutrition and money management. The children loved it! It was so successful! We are making it an annual event!” Participating teacher

Contact

Mary L. Blackburn, NFCS Advisor 510 670-5623 mlblackburn@ucanr.edu; MaryAnn Lagura, NEOP Program Manager 510 670-5636 malagura@ucanr.edu