Every day we serve fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy grains to children in communities across New Hampshire. And almost every day, in at least one community, we hear children say “I don’t like that”. We know it’s normal for a child to express disinterest in something they are unfamiliar with. We follow up with questions “Have you ever tried it?” and always encourage a “no thank you bite” – hopefully fostering a desire or willingness to try new things. Recently in Hampstead, a little boy would not try the vegetable offered at snack (red and orange peppers). He was insistent and only ate the grains; however, afterward he was still hungry. A staff member suggested he try the peppers because they taste good and he just might like them. He agreed, stiffened up, and braced himself for the taste of an orange pepper. After a big bite, his face changed and he said “Wow! This tastes like candy!” He said that because the peppers were red and orange, like the color of fire, he had thought they would be spicy and hot. Now, he is happily eating peppers!
We see similar examples endlessly, children exclaiming “Ew, beans!” at the start of a quesadilla cooking lesson, and by the end saying “yum, I love beans!”. We are proud to say we follow the HEPA (Healthy Eating, Physical Activity) Standards in each of our 16 afterschool programs. We are encouraging nearly 700 children daily to try new fruits and vegetables, and we are providing them with 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
We have children in Raymond going home to their families and teaching them how to make “fruit salsa” and then reporting back to our YMCA staff with the results. There are children in Exeter (among other towns) who now continually add fruit to their water because one time a staff person role modeled by putting slices of grapefruit and lemon in their water. Children are watching staff and their peers try new things on a daily basis and they’re becoming more inclined to join them. Following HEPA Standards continues to have wonderful impact on our communities. We are passionate about this movement and are hopefully grooming children in our programs to be our futures spokespeople.