By: Rajwinder Kaur
Nutrition is crucial for teenagers as it plays a significant role in their growth, cognitive development and mental health. In today's society, where social media influences decision making, it's vital to engage teenagers in experiential nutrition education to instill healthy habits and guide them toward making nutritious food choices.
The Healthy RC Youth Leaders from Rancho Cucamonga, California, are a great example of the work being done to connect with teens through nutrition. Healthy RC Youth Leaders are middle and high school students who partner with the city manager’s office to learn about ways they can make an impact in the community. Healthy RC received a $5,000 Let’s Eat Healthy Community Grant funded by Dairy Council of California to empower the students to be nutrition leaders in their community.
As a community nutrition adviser, I am delighted to share the significant outcomes of Dairy Council of CA’s collaboration through the Let’s Eat Healthy Community Grant. By partnering with a local chef, the teens developed three dairy-based culturally inclusive recipes that are both budget-friendly and teen-approved: a vegetarian ceviche, an antioxidant-rich smoothie and a Greek yogurt chocolate dip. Equipped with new culinary skills and nutrition education lessons, the youth leaders are taking innovative recipes and educating teens and families.
Youth leaders not only enhanced their knowledge about nutrition but also became champions of healthy eating. In fall 2023 at the annual teen summit hosted by the city of Rancho Cucamonga Healthy RC, youth leaders put their newly developed recipes into action by leading workshops for 60 peers. Participants at the workshop engaged in nutrition education and cooking skill development by preparing the recipes. Some of the positive feedback gathered from teens at the summit included:
“What I enjoyed most about today is the cooking with peers and building friendships.”
“This recipe (chocolate dip) is on fire!”
Following the summit, Healthy RC Youth Leaders created a short video promoting the three recipes and the cooking workshop to excite fellow students to participate in future summits.
Collaborating further, the recipes created by Healthy RC Youth Leaders were used by the CASA (Cocinando, Amigos, Saludables, y Alegres), an after-school cooking program for students and families at Los Amigos Elementary School.
Last spring at the Rancho Cucamonga City Council meeting, Dairy Council of CA’s partnership with the Healthy RC team and local teenagers was showcased through a compelling youth-led presentation. I was surprised and honored to receive a certificate of appreciation from the city mayor and council members, underscoring the impact of Let’s Eat Healthy grants in equipping youth for advancing community health and wellness.
Community Nutrition Adviser, Raj, focuses on building strong relationships with community members, educators, administrators and health professionals.
The Let’s Eat Healthy Community Grant program provides community health organizations funding to enhance programs within their communities.
Behind every successful school meal program is a leader with a mission to support the long-term success and health of children.