Guest blog: Recipe for Success is Redefining the Happy Meal

Recipe for Success Foundation is dedicated to combating childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate, and eat their food. For more information on the Foundation’s Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ in elementary schools and other initiatives, visit www.recipe4success.org.

In response to a 2010 proposed class-action lawsuit (that was recently dismissed), McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud stated “We stand on our 30-year track record of providing a fun experience for kids and families at McDonald’s.” The word “fun,” in this case, refers to the familiar toy that comes in every Happy Meal, a big draw for children when they are choosing where and what they want to eat.

But what if the word “fun,” when referring to children’s meals, took on a different connotation? What if children played with their food instead of the toy that came with their meal? No, I don’t mean throwing overcooked and unwanted vegetables across the table at their younger siblings. I’m talking about an altogether different approach; I’m talking about turning the tables and actually encouraging children to participate in the cooking process, making fresh and healthy food an interactive experience, from assisting with preparation, experimenting with recipes and of course partaking in the end result, designating a positive association to a phrase that was once deemed a reprimand: “playing with your food.”

Recipe for Success Foundation (RFS), leading the way in hands-on nutrition education aimed at preventing childhood obesity and encouraging long-term health, promotes interaction at every level of the learning/food process. RFS’s nationally recognized Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education program teaches children how to grow, harvest and cook their own healthy food; the children co-pilot the food progression from the school gardens to the classroom kitchens, instilling a connection to and an enthusiasm for fresh and nutritious fare.

But who helps to positively influence children’s dietary decisions once they leave the S2P classroom?

It is up to family and friends to intercede and induce an interactive and healthy approach to eating. Instead of spending 20 minutes in a car to sit in a drive thru line or waiting 30 minutes for the pizza to show up at the front door, spend a few minutes rolling meatballs for a spaghetti dish or prepping fresh vegetables for a homemade pizza. Easy, affordable and a bonding experience to boot, these activities inspire children to become more independent and self-assured about healthy eating habits, especially if they see role models such as parents or older siblings and friends helping out in the kitchen. Once a child has had fun “playing with their food” in the kitchen, they will be more apt to try new and different dishes, dishes with more vegetables and fruits, dishes that wouldn’t be sold on a fast food menu.

So take charge of your very own competitive healthy food marketing campaign. Make your own Happy Meal.

What do you think about letting children “play with their food?”

Adrienne Ryherd is always hungry for food knowledge. To sate her inquisitive appetite, she consumes every food policy book and documentary she can get her hands on and volunteers her writing skills with local food growers. As the Communications Coordinator at Recipe for Success – Houston, TX nonprofit dedicated to reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by changing the way children understand, appreciate, and eat their food- Adrienne advocates, through writing and public relations, for a brighter, healthier and happier future for our children’s generation.

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3 Responses to Guest blog: Recipe for Success is Redefining the Happy Meal

  1. Joan Lambert Bailey June 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    I loved this post, especially:

    “It is up to family and friends to intercede and induce an interactive and healthy approach to eating. Instead of spending 20 minutes in a car to sit in a drive thru line or waiting 30 minutes for the pizza to show up at the front door, spend a few minutes rolling meatballs for a spaghetti dish or prepping fresh vegetables for a homemade pizza. Easy, affordable and a bonding experience to boot, these activities inspire children to become more independent and self-assured about healthy eating habits, especially if they see role models such as parents or older siblings and friends helping out in the kitchen.”

    I think what we often forget in our rush of daily life is that food should not be the thing that gets pushed to the edge. It’s easy to do, but in the long run short-changing ourselves there means short-changing our health, our communities, our local economies, and even our identity as we lose track of tradition – the ones we know and those we create within our own families. Making space to do something can be difficult, but I think we never regret the effort once it’s initiated. Room to make food together means good conversation, relearning who the other people at the table are, and staying in touch with the mundane in our lives, which in the end, are the repeated actions that define who we are in so many ways. Why not make food part of that to be healthy, creative, and happier?

  2. Megan July 11, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    I don’t mean to nitpick, but “…spend a few minutes rolling meatballs for a spaghetti dish…”

    A few minutes? Really? Homemade meatballs with spaghetti and homemade sauce (never mind salad and a side) is more than a few minutes worth of commitment. And that isn’t counting the time taken to drive through traffic to the store, grocery shopping and doing the dishes post cooking. I’m all for slow food, but I don’t think it does food any favors when you insult the intelligence of busy working parents. I know dinner takes more than a few minutes, which I’m lucky to have after work, but I doubt that parents working 2 or 3 jobs do, never mind the energy to deal with a dirty kitchen afterwards.
    I agree with the above poster. Food is important and should never be the thing we push to the side. And the time it takes to shop and prep and cook and eat and clean up is valuable bonding time without children. But pretending all that takes less time and energy than stopping through the drive thru? Please.

    • Amy July 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      I can make spaghetti and meatballs in 30 minutes; the same amount of time the author uses as a benchmark for waiting for pizza to be delivered or driving to a fast food restaurant, waiting, and then driving back home. I think the point was just that it is possible to make meals that take the same amount of time investment as eating out.

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