For the sixth year in a row, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) gave third-grade students from James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, and George Washington Elementary School a lesson in food and nutrition with the Kids to the Farmers Market Program.
The annual program is organized through a partnership between UMB’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE) and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). The goal of the program is to show Baltimore City children how to be active and healthy through a hands-on learning program that introduces them to new fresh fruits and vegetables over the course of several weeks.
“We look forward to this program every year,” says Brian Sturdivant, MSW, UMB’s director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships. “The kids get to come here to UMB, spend some time outside of school, and they get to eat. I couldn’t imagine a better day than that!”
Over the course of three weeks, students from each school take a field trip to the University Farmers Market, which is open every Tuesday from mid-May to mid-November at Plaza Park across from the UMMC.
(View a photo gallery.)
At the market, the children learned about the importance of fresh, locally grown food and how to create a balanced meal with a nutritional guessing game. The students also got to watch a healthy cooking demonstration put on by volunteers from CulinArt. The volunteers showed the students how to prepare spaghetti squash, kale chips, and apple crisp — a healthy alternative to apple pie. The children got to taste each of the recipes prepared in the demonstration, and all were given a recipe book with instructions on how to cook them at home.
(View a video below.)
“I want to show my grandma the apple crisp recipe,” said Shamya, a student at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School. “We usually make cakes together, but this was really good, too, especially with whipped cream!”
In addition to the recipe books, the students were given red backpacks and $10 worth of “Kids Bucks,” money they can use to buy produce at the farmers market.
“We want to expand the students’ horizons and we want to make sure they understand the importance of locally sourced foods,” Sturdivant says. “Hopefully they will end up buying something they haven’t tasted before.”
That’s exactly what 8-year-old Julian did. While perusing the colorful selection of fruits and vegetables, Julian discovered dragon beans, a shelling bean that’s purple and tastes sweet.
“My mom likes to cook and experiment with food,” he said. “I’m excited to take these beans home to her!”
The Kids to the Farmers Market Program did not end at the market. On Oct. 29, the program brought all three schools back to UMB for Food Play, an interactive, musical performance put at Westminster Hall by the Hippodrome Foundation, Inc.
(View a Food Play photo gallery.)
The students clapped and danced along with the character, ToBe Fit, the juggling nutrition magician. ToBe taught them about creating healthy eating habits, keeping a balanced diet, and making time to play and exercise. He also taught them the difference between a “Go-Food,” food that’s fresh, healthy, and will keep them energized throughout the day, and a “Whoa-Food,” food that’s processed, unhealthy, and will make them feel tired and sluggish halfway through the day.
At the end of the performance, the students took the “High Five Challenge” where they promised to adopt five healthy habits: play for one hour every day; remember that if I can do it, you can do it, too; eat three square meals a day; read the label before you eat it; and eat five vegetables a day.
The OCE and UMMC are looking forward to partnering again next fall to teach another group of third-graders about health and nutrition.