Aaron Porter, a fifth-grade student at John Muir Elementary school, has been a participant in the Public Health SNAP-Ed Eat Better, Feel Better (EBFB) nutrition education classes for the past six years, since kindergarten.
And for the past several years, Aaron’s mother Akberet Gedlu has volunteered in his classroom.
She sat in during several lessons when Public Health’s EBFB nutrition educator, Nancy Tudorof, taught students about healthy eating. She appreciated that the students chopped lettuce, sampled kale, and made healthy recipes that actually tasted good! Over the years, Akberet reports that Aaron began realizing that healthy food can taste really good. He brought recipes home – from bean dip and green smoothies to frozen mangos – and begged her to make them.
Akberet couldn’t believe what was happening to her family. Real change! They began to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
According to Aaron, it’s better to “Eat wheat instead of white”. Hmm… sounds like an EBFB message.
Akberet used to think that healthy foods were bland and that kids wouldn’t eat vegetables. She thought that cooking dinner required spending hours in the kitchen making fried chicken and potatoes for her two. Akberet admitted to forgetting the basics of how to cook even the simplest things. Akberet is East African and was taught that boys were not meant to be in the kitchen. Yet, it was Aaron who got her back into the kitchen. Welcoming Aaron into the kitchen wasn’t easy at first, but now being in the kitchen together has made their mother-son bond even stronger. It made her feel more at ease that Aaron had a lot of practice using a knife to chop vegetables during EBFB classes.
Akberet hears from other mothers at John Muir Elementary School about their children sampling and eating more fruits and vegetables at home. I asked her how she knew that she was eating more fruits and vegetables and she laughed. “My grocery receipts are proof! I’m buying more” she said. She shops at her local Columbia City Farmers Market. She has even lost weight.
Her children are healthier. Aaron used to have allergies and eczema and was teased because he had dark circles around his eyes. Aaron does not have eczema, dark circles or allergies anymore. Aaron says it is because he is eating more vegetables. Akberet says it is also because he is drinking more water and less soda. But that doesn’t mean that Aaron feels deprived – actually the opposite.
Eat Better, Feel Better is funded by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed), for schools with more than fifty percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Six Seattle schools are participating —Van Asselt, John Muir, Maple, Dearborn Park, Bailey Gatzert and South Shore K-8.
(By Elizabeth Kimball, SNAC Program Supervisor. Excerpted from Public Health’s HealthBeat newsletter).