Children get Head Start in building healthy habits with Food Science Fair

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February 25, 2022 by HCDE-Texas

Jessica McClendon hadn’t considered how a peach cobbler recipe could pique her son’s interest in healthy eating habits until Harris County Department of Education Head Start’s annual Food Science Fair. She praised the event for teaching children like her son, Humble Head Start student King Oglesby, the benefits of fruits and vegetables at a young age.

“They’ll be used to eating healthy things, so when they get older, they can live better and healthier lives,” said McClendon.

Humble Head Start student King Oglesby follows his grandmother’s peach cobbler recipe for Head Start’s Food Science Fair, February 21, 2022.

The Food Science Fair ran from Feb. 21-24 at all Head Start campuses, folding nutrition curriculum into school readiness activities. Each campus allowed students to select and take home a pre-chopped vegetable or fruit. Students then devised recipes with their families and presented their creations along with three interesting facts about their chosen key ingredient. New this year was the added classroom activity in which students voted on a healthy recipe they created together.

Some of this year’s dishes featured a sweet peach cobbler, savory Mexican-style corn, berries, and graham cracker “dominoes.”

McClendon describes her struggle to get her kids to eat healthy foods—a challenge many parents can likely appreciate. If it were up to her son, vegetables would not make the dinner menu, she says.

“I eat pretty healthy myself, but, of course, it’s kind of hard getting my kids to eat most of the things I eat,” said McClendon. “King loves fruit, but it’s more so trying to get him to eat the vegetables.”

Students from Humble Head Start Classroom 3 enjoy berry and graham cracker “dominoes” during Head Start’s Food Science Fair, February 22, 2022. 

Oglesby is a big fan of apples, oranges, and watermelon, which are admittedly full of nutrients but also high in sugar. However, since he began attending Head Start, where he receives healthy meals and snacks daily, Oglesby’s taste has diversified. McClendon gives credit to the program and teachers for King’s newly found interest in vegetables, but also to the social influence of the classroom.

“He’ll get out of school, and I’ll ask, ‘What did y’all do today? What did y’all eat?’ And he’ll be like, ‘Oh we ate tomatoes and cucumbers.’ He doesn’t like milk either, but he says he drinks his milk at school. I think it’s the classmates, maybe,” said McClendon.

J. D. Walker Head Start student Journee and father Raliegh Amey follow an elote (corn) recipe for Head Start’s Food Science Fair, February 22, 2022.

Head Start promotes school readiness in the classroom and through home-to-school connection. This connection helps families to discover new and exciting ways to make the most out of everyday teaching moments. The fair is a perfect example of how the program values the parents as their child’s first teacher, says Senior Director Venetia Peacock.

“Nutrition is an integral part of a child’s development and is just as important to their mental health as their physical wellness,” said Peacock. “The fair is a way to partner with families to promote the benefits of healthy eating habits from a young age. Hopefully, they will build on that foundation in the future.”

To learn more about all that Head Start offers children and families or how to enroll, visit hcde-texas.org/head-start.

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