We all know why our kids need healthy meals – it’s hugely important for their health and development – but many times our focus on that can slide during the summer. Crazy schedules with sports, camps and activities can get in the way of regular meals cooked at home, and, worse, millions of low-income kids who benefit from lunch programs during the school year just don’t have access to healthy meals during the summer. In fact, most kids don’t eat the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – and they exceed the maximum daily intake of sodium.
Fortunately, the Walmart Foundation has made a commitment to providing 1.7 million children access to free meals and nutrition education this summer as part of their commitment to help fight hunger in America. They’re providing $14 million in grants to these five nonprofits
o Alliance for a Healthier Generation: Increase access to healthy food and nutrition education for children and parents outside of school in eight U.S. cities.
o Food Research and Action Center: Increase access, participation and awareness of nutrition programs that provide meals to children across the country during the school year and summer months.
o National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families: Expand after-school and summer nutrition initiatives and implement yearlong feeding programs for more than 25,000 low-income children across the country.
o Texas Hunger Initiative: Expand sponsorship and locations for summer and after-school meal programs throughout Texas, while increasing participation by 583,000 children.
o YMCA of the USA: Expand the YMCA’s Summer Food Program at more than 2,300 sites to provide children with access to meals outside of school year-round.
I will be the first to admit that we’ve gotten off the home-cooking bandwagon in the last few months, but it’s time we get back on. Here are some tips from Dr. Michele Borba, a children’s health and development expert, to make meal time fun and healthy for everyone.
• Preparation: Kids Can Meal Plan Too
o Pick recipes for the week and talk to your kids about ingredients needed
o Ask kids to help with the grocery list
o Bring kids to the grocery store
o Visit a farmers market or local farm
• Storage: Color-Coded Foods
o Color coding cuts down on “nagging”
o Green: Eat all the time
o Yellow: Eat sometimes
o Red: Eat once a week
o Make healthy snacks visible and easy to grab on the way out the door
• Meal Time: Enjoying a Fun, Relaxed Time Together
o Make meal time “unplugged time”
o Introduce new foods in quarter-sized portions for picky eaters
o Connect with other moms and cook healthy meals together
o Start a family kindness box to open at each meal
How are you working on keeping your family healthy this summer?