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Community Engagement Incentive Grant: Carol Costello

Development of a Culinary Curriculum to Improve the Diet and Behaviors of Children that Participate in Second Harvest’s Kid Cafe Program

Working closely with Second Harvest Foodbank of East Tennessee, UT researchers developed curriculum for three “Kids Café” sites, to expose children (and, by extension, their families) in underserved communities to a wide variety of vegetables by showing them how to prepare them, and encouraging them to try what they’ve prepared. Second Harvest provided the food, the staff, and the test sites.

Many children participated, including 30 who participated, with parental consent, as formal test subjects. A curriculum for the children, including two weeks’ worth of recipes, were developed for Kid Café chefs, who now may continue to use them. The children responded with enthusiasm to the three lessons, while UT researchers observed that the children were, indeed, trying some vegetables for the first time, posing the opportunity for new eating habits for an underserved group also shown to be at greater risk for overweight or obesity. The researchers concluded that teaching culinary skills may have more long-lasting impact on eating habits than traditional nutritional education.