Teaching our next health ambassadors

students at MissionFit with TasteWise Kids instructor

by Wendy Jeffries, TasteWise Kids Executive Director

I’m excited to share another way we have been recently expanding our TasteWise Kids programming by providing hands-on workshops to students interested in making healthy food choices and learning where their food comes from.

Throughout July, I’ve been spending time teaching a series of workshops to a few young men at MissionFit about what it means to eat healthy (or wisely as we like to say), how to think about what they put in their bodies in new ways, and introducing them to careers in the food world. During our 5 weekly one-hour workshops, we got to play around with food, visit a farm, cook with a chef, and had a lot of lively discussions around what makes food healthy and how to select and prepare foods that will fuel their bodies.

Since part of the goal for these student Health Ambassadors (see below to learn more about this program) is also to share what they learned with others, they have created a list of key take-aways about making healthy food choices. Here are just a few:

  • Different colored fruit and vegetables provide different vitamins and nutrients so it’s important to eat a variety of foods (another way to think about it is Eat the Rainbow)
  • If you can’t understand the ingredients on the food label, it’s not healthy; fewer ingredients is typically better
  • While limiting sugar is important, fruit has natural sugar that is ok to eat
  • A good why to shop for healthier options is to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store (middle aisles have the most processed foods)
  • Its more about how you prepare food then the specific type of food you are eating

One highlight of the month was getting to work with Chef Collin of Scratchmade to learn about the importance of adding Chef Collin showing students how to cook brocollian acidic element to food. For example, we tasted broccoli before adding lemon and then after. As one student described it, the food went from “boring” to “tasty”.

Students tasting new foods

If you want to put some of this learning into action, consider taking a “Eat Real Food challenge” – our students worked to swap out a processed food for a better alternative one week. One student discovered that a bowl of oatmeal keeps you a lot fuller in the morning then a granola bar and only took a few more minutes to prepare. Another student realized that eating a banana was better than skipping an opportunity to fuel his body in the morning. What to see for yourself? The Nutrition Hub has a great resource for individuals ready to try it themselves.

The students shared all that they learned about food, fitness, and healthy by running a class for friends and family last week which was a huge success. I’m so proud of Zyon, Casey, and Micah for caring not just about their own health but the health of their community. Watch out for what these young men might take on next!

What to know more about these youth and what they spent their summer doing?
For those of you who don’t know MissionFit, you should. MissionFit is a non-profit in Baltimore City that is working to change the health of Baltimore youth by teaching them personal fitness and wellness skills. The students I have been working with are participating in MissionFit’s Strength Ambassadors workforce development program made possible thru Baltimore City’s YouthWork program. Over the course of 5 weeks, these youth gained knowledge and skills to achieve physical and mental health in their own lives and learned how to leverage that knowledge and those skills outside the gym to their family, friends and peers. They are not only healthy individuals, but catalysts for health in their own communities. Thanks to Joshua Day, Wes Jamison and their team at MissionFit for all their inspiring work with youth at MissionFit. TasteWise Kids is excited to be collaborating with MissionFit and to be part of the work to help Baltimore City youth take ownership of their health.