Serving healthy, nutritious, child-friendly food is a core part of our holistic approach.
Food is a crucial component to whole-child wellness. This shows up first in the menu offerings for our lunch and daily snacks - we use very minimally processed foods and focus on scratch cooking using whole food ingredients. It is our goal to encourage students to develop the knowledge and attitudes necessary to choose and enjoy healthy nutrition. To this end, we do not serve condiments such as ketchup and syrup that mask the taste of natural foods. When making menu choices we keep in mind that food equals mood. One of the biggest culprits of mood irregularity in young children, in particular, is marked blood sugar irregularity. It is normal for blood sugar to fluctuate over the course of the day; however, extremes brought on by high sugar intake lead to more meltdowns and sluggishness. We aim to set our classrooms up for successful play and learning by serving foods with very little or no added sugar. This can be difficult and has inspired us to ditch many store-bought options in lieu of making items in-house. We focus on healthy fats, strictly avoid artificial food dyes, and use organic ingredients almost exclusively.
Another way our commitment to food shows up at Shine is in our garden. In this outdoor classroom, we focus on tuning into seasonal rhythms. Our students are involved in each step of the process starting with planting seeds. They water and watch their seedlings sprout and grow, learn what ripe looks like, and when it’s appropriate to harvest. Routine cooking and prep activities allow them to taste the fruits of their work while engaging all their senses as they smell, pour, listen, and stir. As one season ends and another begins, we practice saving seeds to plant again when the time is right.
In all of our classrooms, we eat together as a community. We use mealtime as a time to connect, engage, and have conversations. We serve meals family-style, and as they are able, children are taught to serve themselves. Children are encouraged to try new foods but are not forced, helping them build confidence, agency and decision-making skills. Children in the preschool and toddler classrooms are often involved with the food preparation, as we have regular "Cooking with Miss Cammera" sessions throughout the months. We find that for preschoolers in particular, helping prepare the food inspires children to taste something new at lunchtime! It is our wish that the experiences we offer around food will contribute to an understanding of the impact our food choices have on our health, the environment and our community.