Nutrition is the New Cool

Post written by CHC member Sydney Weydemeyer

Sydney services with Seven Generations Ahead as Fresh From the Farm Program Associate & Truck Farm Chicago Co-Director 

While I've had many personal and professional goals these past two years of service, perhaps my biggest pursuit has been to make nutrition the new cool. Nutrition has a bad rap with kids, a really bad rap. Kids don’t like trying new, scary foods like tomatoes and spinach. They especially don’t like trying foods that aren’t packed with additives like salt, sugar, and fat. Advertising  campaigns that paint the image of “cool” foods in kids’ minds almost never focus on the benefits of eating vegetables and fruits, but are almost entirely devoted to “cooler” (and more profitable) foods like soda, chips and candy. In the schools where I teach, healthy=nasty. This is not because kids have tried these healthy foods and don’t like the taste, but because the images they have in their minds about healthy foods are ones that are neither fun nor delicious. Of course, there are a host of other reasons that healthy=nasty in their minds such as access, affordability, culture, and desire, but I don’t have the space to get into with today’s blog.

Throughout my AmeriCorps service years, I have tried to guide people down a path and change the perception that healthy=nasty.  I teach kids that healthy foods are delicious and fun, by using taste tests, educating about why healthy food is good for our bodies and minds, and many gardening activities.

For the most part, I think the kids I have taught these past two years think I'm pretty cool, judging by the numbers of smiling children that run to hug me when I arrive for the day.  Or at least, they think I'm cool in a weird way, as I might be the first person they have ever met who gets excited about eating plants. My dream is for kids to see people they can really relate to, besides just their nutrition teacher, also loving healthy food, so that one day they might share that love with others, too.  Think of what we could accomplish if officially "cool people," 

people these kids really idolize and look up to, spread the veggie love. Seeing Derek Rose from the Bulls chowing down on some broccoli on a billboard instead of drowning in a 1,000 calorie Giordano’s pizza is just one possibility.

How much veggie love have I spread in the past 2 years? About 3,061 kid’s worth. And that was without the help of D. Rose. If a moderately cool person like me can make that much of a difference in children’s lives, think about how much of a difference together we can make if we all start spreading the veggie love, one tomato at a time?