What do children and seniors have in common? They are both often in need of community assistance. Children are taken care of and taught by their parents, teachers, coaches, and elders. Seniors are faced with their own set of challenges. Those whose needs cannot be met at home may seek support at a senior center where they are looked after by professionals and their meals are provided for them.
This summer, Hays County Food Bank launched nutrition education programs that target both of these age groups. We strongly believe that everyone has the right to knowledge about healthy nutrition, regardless of age, income level, and mobility. This is why Chadwic Layne, our Client Services Coordinator, worked with food bank interns to lead nutrition discussions at various locations throughout the county. We want children and seniors to be aware of how food affects their bodies and the steps they can take to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The Child Nutrition Engagement Program teaches children what foods they need and don’t need to grow big and strong. Kids learn about nutrients like protein and good carbs, vitamins, and why they should stay away from added sugar. Instructors use interactive displays to engage the children. For example, they display popular drinks alongside their sugar content to exemplify just how much sugar goes into their bodies. Did you know that in one can of regular soda (12 oz.) there are approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar? This is a teaspoon more than what the American Heart Association suggests for a full grown man in one day!
The Senior Nutrition and Wellness Program educates seniors on ways they can maintain proper health by making smart eating choices. Instructors talk about which foods to eat and which to avoid in order to avoid illness and prevent bone loss. They also discuss how protein needs vary depending on weight, age, and activity level. Did you know that seniors over 70 should receive 1 gram of protein per kilogram of weight? This means that a senior weighing 150 pounds should eat ~68 grams of protein per day! Seniors also participate in discussions about how to budget when grocery shopping. This is helpful because many of them are on fixed incomes and can greatly benefit from tips on bulk buying and seasonal shopping.
All participants were given healthy snacks and shown how to make them. They prepared watermelon pizza, no-bake peanut butter balls, parfaits, and other scrumptious, and nutritionally rich, items. The kids especially loved the hands-on experience. We hope they will take what they learned home and share it with their families. A positive impact on a youth can last a lifetime. We are motivated by the prospect that they will grow up and continue the cycle of good health with their own families in the future.
Remember – it’s never too early or too late to start your nutrition education! We will continue to reach out to all age groups in hopes that we will help to better our community.