Commitment To Be Fit
Rainbow 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.
Rainbow’s Top Chef
Nutrition is as important to a child’s future as a quality education. Healthy food is an essential school supply at Rainbow Child Development Center. Children cannot learn, excel and achieve if they are not properly nourished. Rainbow’s breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks work to address the twin crises of low-income childhood’s hunger and obesity. Healthy meals are a important and effective part of children’s success.
Rainbow’s on-site Chef, Chef Ashley, starts her work day very early. Every morning at 6:00 a.m. Ashley is chopping, slicing, preparing and cooking healthy, colorful and delicious meals and afternoon snacks for Rainbow’s preschool children! Ashley operates the kitchen under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) regulations, a conservative food budget, excludes nuts due to allergies, addresses child specific dietary restrictions, aligns meals with Worcester’s 5210 health program, and uses creative ways for a few picky eaters to try new food. Preparing delicious and nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks for four classrooms of preschool children 52 weeks a year that follow the above parameters is challenging and impressive!
Ashley is up to the task. A sample of her breakfast menu is scrambled eggs, with fresh fruit and wheat bagels. Lunch offerings include pulled pork, chicken salad, homemade soup, fresh pesto with wheat pasta, are served with whole grains and vegetables. Snacks are often homemade hummus and cut vegetables. Ashley frequently harvests greens from the Center’s hydroponic unit during the winter months and spinach, basil, kale, mint, summer squash and tomatoes from the Center’s raised beds during the summer.
She is an influencing force in the Center’s nutrition and healthy lifestyle initiatives. Ashley has increased children’s daily consumption of vegetables by serving a wide variety of fresh vegetables from broccoli, to sweet peppers to spinach.
Rainbow has been a highlighted participant of Worcester Public Health’s 5210 Program!
- 5 fruits or vegetables
- 2 hours of screen time or less
- 1 hour or more of physical exercise
- 0 sugary drinks
Ashley’s originality, food knowledge, and personal interest in the children makes Rainbow’s menus tempting, colorful and delicious. The following quote by Wolfgang Puck typifies Ashley’s culinary talent: “Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors – it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.” Our Chef’s Hat is off to Ashley!