Professional Development

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Innovative Online Nutrition Education

Tuesday, 08 January 2019 10:28

In a country where 1 in 3 children are obese or overweight, schools and community organizations are taking more direct action to intervene in the fight against childhood obesity by integrating nutrition education into their classes and programs.

Since 2003, Common Threads, a national nonprofit organization and proud member of the HOST Coalition, has been providing hands-on cooking and nutrition education programs to children, families and teachers in communities across the country.

Common Threads makes its resources available through the innovative Common Bytes website, which equips afterschool professionals and leaders to engage their communities in the importance of improving youth health through healthy eating habits and culinary skills. Common Bytes presents a fun, easy way for the community to learn by exploring healthy recipes for making meals and snacks, following the National Dietary Guidelines as recommended by the NAA HEPA Standards, through interactive games and resources.

How might you use this to engage your community?

Engaging community is critical to building knowledge and skills needed to drive healthy behavior change and is a great way to celebrate cultural traditions and community assets through the recipes you choose! Recipes you'll find on Common Bytes support the NAA HEPA Standards (Content and Quality Standards 1 – 8) and can be used to inspire healthy snacks and foods for your program.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Share Common Bytes as a FREE resource for at-home learning. Visit Common Bytes to download free promotional materials to share with your community.

  • Teach nutrition and healthy snack making. Have the students select a recipe and work through that recipe's journey. At every step in the journey, discuss the questions as a group. Every journey teaches participants about food groups, growing food, shopping at the grocery store, cooking and coming around the table. At the end of the journey, can cook and enjoy the recipe together.

  • Host a community cooking demo. Click on Videos at the top of the Common Bytes site to check out how-to videos, then have students re-create them for their own live cooking demos! Share Common Bytes as a free resource where community members can access more recipes and cooking videos.

  • Host a community cooking competition. Select a recipe from Common Bytes and purchase ingredients for your competition participants. Give community members a certain amount of time to explore the recipe on Common Bytes and then cook it.

Looking for something more?

Small Bites, the broadest-reaching Common Threads program, provides training and curriculum to facilitators offering nutrition education in and out of the classroom. The program teaches children about the benefits of a healthy diet, gives them opportunities for active and experiential learning, and provides a snack in which students taste new foods. Recent survey data from the University of Chicago study An Experiential Cooking and Nutrition Education Program Increases Cooking Self-Efficacy and Vegetable Consumption in Children in Grades 3 – 8 shows that participation in Small Bites increased students' nutrition knowledge, liking of vegetables, communication with their families about healthy eating, and participation in meal preparation.

Common Threads currently trains more than 2,100 facilitators annually, who then teach the lessons to over 65,000 students! Small Bites is aligned with the NAA HEPA Standards to "promote lifelong health and seeks to reduce the risk of chronic disease."

Small Bites offers "developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant, evidence-informed nutrition education that provides youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote and protect their health" (CQ Standard 9)—and when paired with training can help to ensure learning is as meaningful as possible! Additionally, Small Bites lessons are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and National Health Education Standards.

Ready to connect?

The fastest way to connect is to head to Common Bytes to start exploring and using the free resources.

If you are interested in receiving training, curriculum or other lesson resources, visit the online store. All sales benefit the grant-based programs Common Threads offers in underserved communities.

E-mail teachers@commonthreads.org to learn more about the Small Bites grant-based programs or see the informational video on the Common Bytes Videos page.

Written by Stephanie Folkens, Director of Programs, Common Threads.

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