“EWWW! I do NOT like cauliflower,” a fifth grade boy said recently. He had arrived at the Inova Healthy Plate Club – a weekly class that teaches kids about healthy eating and cooking – to find he’d be making cauliflower nuggets.
But, as this student and his classmates beat the eggs, measured ingredients, and lightly breaded the cauliflower, his attitude started to change. By the end of the hour, he was happily eating a plate of cauliflower nuggets. “I guess I DO like cauliflower!”
This scenario is not uncommon to the Inova Healthy Plate Club. Run by Inova's Population Health department, the program is part of Inova’s commitment to the community. Aimed at students in grades 2 through 6, this program aims to reduce obesity rates among low-income children by helping them develop a love for vegetables and healthy eating.
How the Healthy Plate Club Works
A key to the program’s success is trying vegetables in different ways. Kale is baked with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Spinach is blended into smoothies. Zucchini is sliced, breaded and baked. And Brussels sprouts are sautéed with dried cranberries.
The kids attend 8 weekly classes, usually held at their school at the end of the day. They cook and learn about label reading, building healthy meals, and everyday vs. sometimes foods/drinks. And they ask things like, “Can we make kale chips again?”
The Healthy Plate Club runs in the City of Alexandria and Loudoun and Fairfax counties. There were programs at the following schools during the 2017 – 2018 school year:
- Hammond MS and John Adams ES (Alexandria)
- Bailey’s, Braddock, Cunningham Park, Dogwood, Hutchison, Woodburn ES (Fairfax county)
- Sterling and Sully ES (Loudoun county)
Results: Kids in Northern Virginia Are Eating Healthier
Nearly 400 kids have graduated from the Inova Healthy Plate Club through early 2018. And data shows the program is working: In one session, the number of second graders who like kale increased from 8% to 75%.
What kids are saying:
- "I didn’t like vegetables before I started the Healthy Plate Club. Now I do!”
- "I learned you can make food at home that tastes just as good as eating out.”
- "My mom is impressed I’m eating more vegetables.”
- "I make the kale chips at home!”
Learn More and Support Healthier Kids
To learn more about the Inova Healthy Plate Club, or to volunteer, please contact Kate Garsson. Please note the Healthy Plate Club does not provide 1:1 nutrition counseling or medical weight management.
To support the Inova Healthy Plate Club, please visit the Inova Health Foundation website. Select the "other" category from the drop down menu, and specify Inova Healthy Plate Club.
Other Inova Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs
Nutrition is the foundation of good health, and Inova offers a suite of free programs to help low-income children and their parents make healthier food choices and get more physical activity. You provide the classroom, one staff member, and participants, and we’ll bring the instructors, equipment and materials.
Programs can be held in many settings, including after-school or at community centers, churches, and clinics. Each program is 6-12 weeks, and a monthly program can also be accommodated.
Teen Cuisine (Grades 6 - 8)
Inova partners with Virginia Cooperative Extension to teach teens nutrition, food safety and physical activity through cooking. While preparing recipes such as fried rice or omelets, teens learn how to build healthy meals, identify whole grains, read food labels, prevent food-borne illness, and much more.
Nutrition on a Budget (for parents)
Parents meet in a group setting where there is an emphasis on social support, learning from peers, and sharing challenges and successes. With special attention paid to budget and time constraints, parents learn about nutrition for kids, building healthy, inexpensive meals, and increasing physical activity at home. Parents also practice cooking skills in class.
Health and Wellness Fairs
Inova offers several display options you can borrow for your health and wellness fair. Choose from the MyPlate and sugary beverage displays, or use a combination of both. Displays come with everything you need for a 6-foot table, including handouts, a tablecloth and small giveaway items. All you need is a volunteer to staff the table.
The Inova Healthy Plate Club runs in the after-school timeframe in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties and the City of Alexandria. Volunteers are at the location – usually a school – for about two hours. Depending on the site, classes start between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., and end between 4:30 and 6 p.m.
No experience with cooking or nutrition is necessary.
Volunteers are essential to the success of this program. As a volunteer, you’ll get to:
- Watch kids try veggies like zucchini and kale for the first time – and like them!
- Play a role in helping kids develop healthy habits, make better choices, and manage stress.
- Learn new, healthy recipes that you can take home for yourself and your family.
- Have fun!
To get more information on volunteering, please fill out our online form.