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Benton Harbor trip

Imagine scooping out 17 teaspoons of sugar to measure the amount of sugar you're actually drinking in a 20-ounce bottle of soda. That's what families in Benton Harbor experienced during their "Side by Side" classes during one week of May 2010. The five-day session at Fair Plain Renaissance and Hull Middle Schools was part of the Generation With Promise Family Enhancement Project (GWP-FEP).FEP in Benton Harbor 14


Students and their parents learned about the importance of proper nutrition and getting more physical activity in their day. Chef Mike Schram of Gleaners Community Food Bank in Southeastern Michigan and Dennis Medel, Parent School Coordinator for GWP, did various taste tasting experiments of fruits, vegetables, and milks to encourage families to try new and different healthy alternatives.FEP in Benton Harbor 13

The lessons also included information on the food pyramid, meal planning, and reading nutrition labels for sugar and fat content. The families put their newly learned skills to the test with food preparation and cooking that included several delicious meals and snacks. The students and their parents/caregivers sampled barley jambalaya, healthy macaroni and cheese, turkey tacos, veggie stir fry, fruit parfaits and smoothies, and chocolate French toast.

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Friday's graduation at the end of the week was a celebration for the families with a friendly competition of Jeopardy that reviewed what they learned during class. It was apparent to those who finished that healthy eating doesn't need to taste bland or bad. Eighth grader Chardonnay said she not only learned how to cook, but she liked knowing that she could eat healthier. "I'm going to go home and make some healthy French toast," she added.

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One of the parents who took part in the class with her son said she will be trying to eat more vegetables. "I'm going to include more vegetables in my diet and my son's diet and we're going to exercise more and cook together," said Princella.

DeAnthony, who was one of the other parents that participated in Side by Side, was shocked at the amount of sugar he was consuming in his beverages. An avid coffee drinker, DeAnthony was asked what he was going to do differently. He replied, "I'm going to lay off sugar and not drink so much pop this summer."

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Our hats go off to GWP Benton Harbor coordinator Lisa Peeples-Hurst. She was instrumental in bringing the families together. She shopped for groceries and made sure everything ran smoothly.

Participants received a bag of groceries after each class to duplicate the recipes they learned and were given lots of helpful information upon graduation from the program. This included cookbooks, certificates, nutrition education games for the kids, measuring utensils and portable carts for all of the goodies they received.

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