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Teaching nutrition, developing civic awareness

November 18, 2015 — 

What could be better than getting together with your mom or dad and a group of your classmates to enjoy a delicious meal together?

That’s what some Grade 4-6 students from Kent Road school in Winnipeg’s Elmwood community are doing this year, under the guidance of three University of Manitoba Human Nutritional Sciences students.

The students – Christina Fillion, Laura Pelser and Darren Fife – developed the “Kent Road Food Club” for their practicum placement after Will Burton, a teacher at Kent Road school, approached the U of M Service-Learning office to implement a hands-on food and nutrition opportunity for his Kent Road students.

Burton noticed some students faced challenges and barriers with respect to healthy eating, and thought a hands-on program centred on food would be both fun and beneficial.

Over the fall and winter, the Club will meet every few weeks at Elmwood High School to learn about healthy, affordable and easy-to-make balanced meals. But this isn’t a typical classroom – the program takes place in the Home Economics Foods laboratory where the focus is on preparing delicious, easy, budget-friendly meals.

The Human Nutritional Sciences students will be adding some nutrition messages into the instruction, and everyone will share their efforts in a communal meal at the end of each session. Leftovers will go home with the Kent Road students.

The experience will provide the U of M students an opportunity to apply their skills in a practical environment, while learning about community service and community development.

“Mentoring youth in food skills is critically important in our complex food environment that promotes fast and convenience foods and this program allows our students to build their own food skills, and community development skills,” says associate professor Joyce Slater, the Human Nutritional Sciences Practicum instructor. “The Kent Road Food Club is a win-win situation for our students, and the Kent Road students and their families.”

Service-learning is an innovative approach to education that integrates community service with activities designed to develop civic awareness, critical thinking and intercultural communication skills.

“We noticed a need in our community for support that went beyond the Breakfast Program at Kent Road School,” Burton says.

“We wanted to establish a community-based program that would develop food nutrition and cooking skills, as well as the relationships between students and parents or guardians.  The sustainability and retention of information is the most important piece in this program – with families working together at the sessions, they will be encouraged to replicate the cooking at home, cultivating knowledgeable and a positive connection towards healthy food and cooking.”

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