For the past three years, Chartwells K-12 has been working with school athletic programs to teach youngsters participating in organized sports about proper nutrition. Now that program is migrating to the general school populations as part of an enhanced Discovery Kitchen initiative.
Starting this fall, Discovery Kitchen, Chartwells’ interactive food and nutrition education initiative, will feature monthly themes across the school year with a rotation of subjects, the first of which was an adaptation of the company’s high school sports nutrition program called Power Your Performance.
“While this has been very successful with athletic teams, we’ve gotten feedback from the schools that kids not in competitive sports who are also nevertheless active are also interested in this subject,” explains Margie Saidel, vice president of nutrition and sustainability for Chartwells K-12. “So this year we’re adding another component for kids interested in sports nutrition in which we identify and highlight different meals that we serve in the café that they may be interested in.”
Power Your Performance encompasses both full reimbursable meals and a la carte snacks and beverages, all designed to help boost physical performance. The Discovery Kitchen Power Your Performance program, which runs through September, also includes interactive components such as a create-your-own-sports-drink activity where students can make customized power beverages based on cherry juice, said to be a particularly effective drink for athletes.
“We’ve found that if we want to make a difference with our food and nutrition education advice, then find we have to find topics that are of great importance to the students and I think we’ve found that” with this sports nutrition adaptation, says Saidel.
The original sports nutrition program is now in its fourth year and is based on student athletes’ thirst for knowledge that can help them boost their performances.
“They see professional sports nutritionists help professional athletes maximize their performance” and want the same thing, Saidel says. “We feel this is a great value-add [for Chartwells] because we do have the largest team of registered dietitians in the industry to lend that kind of support and expertise, and athletic success is very important to every district.”
As part of the program, a Chartwells dietitian meets with each team and its coaches three times in a classroom setting to talk about good general eating behavior, hydration and what they should be consuming before, during and after events. The sessions include samples of the appropriate foods and drinks.
The sessions are tailored to different sports and demographics.
October is a good month for that [theme],” Saidel says, “because there are all kinds of fresh produce in season then in different parts of the country, and it is also Farm-to-School Month.”
Seed to Table will feature interactive programs such as field trips to nearby farms and farmers’ markets held at school sites. In elementary sites, children will be given play money they can use to “buy” different products at the markets that they can then take home along with recipes to prepare them.
“We try to do more than just give information, which is the old-fashioned way of doing it,” Saidel observes. “We want to create an experience to help them discover food.”
“We’ve done all-female and all-male teams as well as mixed groups and different sports,” Saidel explains.” We modify what we talk about for the different sports, though at their age just to get them to understand nutritious meals is the most important thing. We also try to emphasize why nutritious whole foods are better than supplements and so forth.”
Power Your Performance will be followed on the Discovery Kitchen monthly theme schedule in October by Seed to Table, which will focus on locally produced ingredients.