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Local Foods in the Early Childhood Setting: Part II

July 26, 2019

The Power of Food. The Potential in Collaboration.

Alyssa Ramuscak is a MHSc Nutrition Communication student from Ryerson University who recently completed a placement at the Nutrition Resource Centre (now Nutrition Connections). During her time here, Alyssa assisted in facilitating a three part workshop series with Region of Peel – Public Health to educate child care providers on healthy eating in the early years.

In a three part workshop series, the Nutrition Resource Centre (now Nutrition Connections), in collaboration with Region of Peel – Public Health and the Child Development Resource Connection Peel, facilitated presentations on healthy eating in the early years to educate child care providers. Here are just some of the lessons I learned about the power of food and how it brings people together.

The Power of Collaboration 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Throughout the development of the three part workshop series, I was fortunate to be able to collaborate on this project with not only the supportive staff from NRC, but also with my old colleagues from the Region of Peel – Public Health’s Family Division and my fellow classmate, Saima Khan (who was completing her placement at Peel).

The Region of Peel – Public Health’s dietitians have worked very closely with the child care sector in their region, through establishing a Menu and Nutrition for Child Health advisory committee and undertaking several projects such as a regional Child Care Menu Review and a Sample Menu Pilot Project. The expertise that they brought to the workshops on early childhood nutrition was vital and getting to see them interact with child care providers and cooks who they’ve fostered close relationships with over the years was a true testament of their valuable work.

I was also very grateful to be able to share my population health placement experience with my classmate, Saima Khan. Getting to take the theoretical knowledge we obtained during our coursework and apply it in a practical setting as students was very rewarding. Also having the opportunity to be able to bounce ideas off each other for workshop activities – despite being in different cities – was advantageous to the smooth delivery of our individual workshops.

Being a part of this project alone, made me realize how important the power of collaboration is and the small world dietitians often work in!

Image source: Pixabay

Food Brings People Together – So let’s cherish that!

One of the most profound “light bulb” moments from running a community workshop series was the reminder of how lucky we are, as a profession, to be able to freely discuss food, something that is relatable across all ages and cultures. As dietitians and nutrition students, I believe we sometimes lose sight of how powerful food is in bringing people together. Although we hold this expertise in all things food and nutrition, we must cherish the lived food experiences and practical aspects of nutrition in other professions. I learned so much from the cooks and early childhood educators during the local food workshop, and it was exciting to witness the synergistic effect that comes with knowledge sharing.

During one of the local food activities, I provided each table with a locally grown, seasonal fruit or vegetable, and asked them to share one fun fact about their food that they could share with the children in their care. Initially, I threw out some examples that would speak to the fruit or vegetables’ physical characteristics or growing patterns, but was surprised by the overwhelming number of fun facts that each table was able to produce. For example, one table shared how the number of “bumps” on the bottom of a bell pepper could indicate the sweetness of the pepper – with four bumps being sweeter than three. Naturally, other organic moments like these occurred throughout the workshop session, with cooks exchanging recipes and menu ideas on how to incorporate local food, and early childhood educators providing activities to introduce local foods to young children like creating green bean caterpillars. Despite having various backgrounds, we all were able to mutually bond over our connection to food and learn something new from each other.


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