Nutrition and Health

Commitment To Be Fit

commit to be fitRainbow Child Development Center is committed to providing at-risk children multiple
opportunities to develop a healthy lifestyle, which ideally will develop into lifelong
practices. Rainbow’s mission is to transform children’s lives by improving children’s
academic performance, emotional and social aptitude and lifelong health.
The establishment of Rainbow’s vegetable garden three years ago has served as
the cornerstone for the Center’s health and nutrition initiatives. Fresh tomatoes,
peppers, summer squash, and broccoli have filled the raised beds prominently placed
in the front of the Center. Children’s hands-on gardening has enriched the Center’s
curriculum, improved children’s interest in learning and encouraged children and
their families to make healthy food choices. Rainbow’s on-site chef prepares healthy
meals filled with garden-fresh, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and summer squash
during the summer and fall. Dishes include fresh basil and lettuce, parsley and kale
from our hydroponic units during the winter. Daily snacks are “whole grain-rich,”
a fruit, a vegetable, or a protein-rich food.

Throughout the year, UMass Food and Nutrition Extension, Regional Environmental
School Garden Coordinator and staff from the Community Harvest Project facilitate
lessons to the Center’s children. Students’ trainings were focused on the importance
and the positive effects of increasing their consumption of vegetables. Students refer
to food as “fuel” for their body, they learn portion size and parents were invited to
attend “Veggie Parties.”

In the Center’s “Commit To Be Fit” program, children were taught how their mental
and physical health were connected. Lessons focused on the importance of daily
intake of fruits and vegetables coupled with daily physical activity. The “Commit To
Be Fit” Program proved to be an enjoyable and effective means to combat childhood
obesity and it exposed children to the components that make up a healthy lifestyle.
In educating children in these areas they enjoyed the lessons and have truly taken
to heart what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

Parent Healthy Cooking Series

parent healthy cooking
Parent healthy cookingRainbow Child Development Center recognizes that parents are powerful change agents. The Center worked with Chef John Lawrence, owner of Peppers Artful Events, and offered parents a series of fun and informative cooking classes in Rainbow’s kitchen, to demonstrate their power to transform their children’s and families’ health.

Lessons emphasized nutrition, grocery shopping on a budget, and food safety while engaging parents in group discussions, cooking demonstrations, hands-on learning and tastings. Chef John followed USDA
MyPlate.gov and a UMass nutrition educator provided nutrition and food portion guidelines while parents prepared meals for their families.

healthy cookingFood preparation focused on increasing families daily consumption of vegetables, and low-cost, easy and fast ways to prepare seasonal vegetables. One of the favorite dishes was South American Quinoa, Rice Salad with Kale, and homemade mustard dressing! Participants brought home family size portions of the meal they prepared, along with the recipe at the end of each lesson. Parents attended a series of six classes, earned a certificate and a cooking “tool kit.”