Community Engagement
A Healthier Future Starts Today
Justin Heaton
Justin Heaton

Northwestern Dining knows the importance of giving back to our community.  We are involved in many initiatives that aim to improve the quality of life of those around us, not only on the Northwestern University campus, but also within the Evanston and Chicagoland communities.  One partnership that I work closely with is the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University. 

Throughout the year, we reduce hunger by donating leftover food to help feed those less fortunate in the Evanston area.  Last summer, Sodexo Foundation and The Campus Kitchens Project teamed up to develop the nutrition education curriculum: Building Blocks for Healthy Kids – Nutrition Education in Six Lessons.  These lessons help kids cultivate an interest in a healthy lifestyle.

This summer I worked with Kelly Koss, an AmeriCorps Vista with the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University, to teach nutrition lessons to a group of girls aged 7-10 at the Family Focus of Evanston, as part of Sodexo’s Feeding Our Future® program. The lessons give a basic understanding of proper nutrition and exercise.  Each lesson includes a healthful breakfast, fun lesson and activity, a delicious snack, and recipe with food to take home to their family.  It was great to see that many of the girls knew about whole grains, fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins. They were also very excited and interested in learning what parts of the plants much of our food comes from.

The favorite lesson of the class came last. It was a wrap up of all that we learned, and included the final lesson on why exercise is important. We set up three stations inspired by the lessons; the girls tried different vegetables, like purple cauliflower, proteins like edamame and lentils, and learned the importance of finding whole grains in packaged cereals, breads and snacks. One of the girls reluctant to try the lentils was surprised how much she enjoyed them. “Wow, that was really good!” she said asking for more. After everyone completed each station, the girls went outside to exercise with athletes from Northwestern Women’s Basketball and Soccer teams. We ended with a final snack, Banana in a Blanket, a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter, a banana and a little honey–great for after a workout! From our first lesson, to the last I really saw a change in the kids. They were more knowledgeable about nutrition and were excited about healthy eating.

Building Blocks for Healthy Kids Course Completed!

The partnership with The Campus Kitchens Project and our student leaders at Northwestern is fruitful (no pun intended)! I am encouraged by how passionate they are about nutrition and teaching kids about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. 

During the school year, we hope to expand the nutrition education program to more community centers reaching more youth. The fight against hunger and a healthier future starts with empowering others in their community. Whether it is providing meals, teaching low-income kids the importance of nutrition and exercise or encouraging others to give back by using their talents – each create a healthier environment aimed at reducing hunger for our future.

By: Justin Heaton. Justin is the Sodexo District Dietitian at Northwestern University Dining.

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