Representatives from the Nutrition & Health Promotion Branch of Riverside University Health System, Public Health have been visiting the Soboba Tribal Preschool every couple of weeks to share healthy lessons as part of an ongoing wellness program. They have been focusing on encouraging the young students, and their families, to eat a rainbow of colors.
The “Color Me Healthy” nutrition series began in August with a 30-minute session for young preschoolers and a second session for combined Pre-K and kindergarten students. Each visit includes singing and dancing and an imaginary trip that includes physical movements such as hopping, reaching and stretching.
On Oct. 11, Health Education Assistant II Hosea Jones, introduced students to blueberries, while dressed as one herself. She was assisted by Taylor Hart, dressed as a tomato. The lesson “Where Do the Colors Grow?” explained where fruits and vegetables grow, such as apples from trees, corn on stalks, sweet potatoes underground and blueberries on bushes.
Starting with the three-year-old students, Jones and Hart reviewed their last lesson which covered how we must exercise to keep our body’s muscles healthy. Most remembered that the most important muscle in our body is the heart.
Hart used a picture chart of different fruits and vegetables in color order and the children were asked which ones they had tried. They were asked if it was sweet or sour, crunchy or soft and other questions to keep them thinking about different aspects of each.
While yellow is the color of corn, it was explained that a green husk covers it while it grows on a stalk to keep it protected from birds that might try to eat it or the elements that might keep it from ripening. While grapes can be red, green or even black, dried grapes become raisins which were in the brown section.
After more interaction with the students through song and dance, the students were given a taste test of dried blueberries in individual containers. Each child got a squirt of hand sanitizer and then were asked to try at least one and say if they liked it or not. Was it soft, crunchy or chewy? Was it sweet or sour? The children shared their experiences after eating one or more.
Jensen said he thought they would make a great snack for Halloween trick-or-treaters. Each student was applauded for trying something new and at the end of the lesson, they got stickers for being good listeners.
Jones and Hart made their way to the multipurpose room where the Pre-K and kindergarten classes were taught together as one group. The lesson was about the same as it was for the younger children except there was a lot more verbal interaction with the older students. They had also tried more fruits and vegetables and seemed to know the origin of most of the items.
The dried blueberries seemed to be a hit as most of the kids gave it a thumbs up indicating they liked what they were eating.
Soboba Tribal Preschool Office Manager Amber Lopez said, “We love how well Hosea and her team work with the students to learn healthy habits in a fun way.” She said the students regularly talk about the importance of eating a nutritious lunch so they can grow up healthy and strong.
The current six-session wellness program will conclude on Nov. 8 with a mystery taste testing. All participants will receive a certificate for completing the “Color Me Healthy” nutrition series, which is funded by the state’s CalFresh Healthy Living Program. Visit www.CalFreshHealthyLiving.com for healthy tips.
Jones said her department works with preschools and HeadStart programs throughout Riverside County and she loves seeing young kids get excited about eating healthy foods. The program provides handouts and newsletters for the children to take home so their parents are aware of what they are learning and ways they can reinforce the lessons at home. There are also tips on providing nutritious snacks and recipes to try, using fresh and healthy ingredients.
Jones has worked for the county for 25 years and has been with the nutrition program for more than 10 of those years. She works mainly with preschools, where she likes interacting with young children; the younger the better, she said. It allows her to introduce them to new concepts and lifelong healthy eating.
“I call myself an educator without a permanent home,” she said. “I’m always out in the community at schools, food pantries, health fairs and summer school free food programs throughout Riverside County.”
With a flourishing garden of fresh produce at the back side of the preschool, students are regularly exposed to seasonal fruits and vegetables such as squash, tomatoes and pumpkins. These fresh foods give them an opportunity to taste test new foods and/or learn how and when they grow, such as pumpkins on vines in the fall season.
For more information, www.colormehealthy.com.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians