Cooking Up Energy is an exciting cooking and nutrition education program started by Dr. Kathy Isoldi, RD who is a professor of Nutrition at Long Island University’s Post Campus. Cooking Up Energy is currently being offered to the children at the Boys and Girls Clubs in both Glen Cove and Oyster Bay. When Dr. Isoldi started teaching at LIU, she saw the foods lab in the Nutrition Department and realized that there might be an opportunity to teach people how to cook healthy foods. This realization, along with the knowledge that preparing food has become a lost art, led Dr. Isoldi to design Cooking Up Energy.
Dr. Isoldi had counseled overweight and obese children for more than two decades and wanted to influence behaviors on a larger scale through her efforts of teaching children to cook, sharing her love for cooking, showing the children how much fun it is to cook and teaching them, if they cook food, that they will have more respect for it. Along with the added respect that the children would have for food if they cooked it themselves, it would also lead them to think about making healthy food choices if they were involved in food preparation and eating better. Dr. Isoldi’s idea for Cooking Up Energy is not only to teach children cooking skills, but to change their attitudes towards food. Today, parents are busy, and these life skills are not being taught either at home or at school (such as in the Home Economics classes of the 1960′s and 1970′s).
Cooking Up Energy is a ten week cooking and nutrition education program offering children a hands on experience to cut, peel, stir, and measure ingredients, while preparing a healthy version of some of their favorite foods. When tasting the foods that they have made, the children have conversations with the nutrition student volunteers about the food. This serves as a stealth method of nutrition education that gets kids talking about food and how good healthy food can taste without lecturing. Cooking Up Energy is a community education and research project. For the research portion, children’s height, weight, blood pressure and waist circumference are all taken. Children also fill out surveys about meal preparation frequency, 24-hour recall, attitudes about healthy food, and self-efficacy. Both the measurements and surveys are done before and after the program. The children’s measurements and surveys are completed before and after the program to see if participation in the 10 week program has influenced their behavior or outcome. The goals of Cooking Up Energy include: reducing body weight in those children who are overweight or obese at the start of the study, improve food intake-especially fruit and vegetable intake, increase frequency of meal preparation at home, improve meal preparation self-efficacy and attitudes about cooking. Of course, it’s important for the children to enjoy the experience.
Dr. Isoldi says, “This program could not function without the many dedicated student volunteers from Post. They are passionate about food, hard-working and really care about children”. To date, 174 participants have completed the program and 24 have repeated it for a second time. Preliminary findings show positive outcomes in program evaluation, body weight status, and intention to make healthier food choices. Funding for this program has been provided by the School of Health Professions and Nursing at LIU Post and the Bahnik Foundation.
Submitted by Dianne Cochrane, a Senior at LIU Post who will be graduating in May 2014. Dianne volunteers her time and expertise with the Cooking Up Energy Program.
About the Author
Lisa Samuels is a Long Island native who is currently a Dietetic Intern at LIU Post. She has a B.A. in Art History from Ithaca College, a B.S. in Nutrition from LIU Post & was also a practicing baker for two years. Lisa has finally found her calling. Combining her love for food, writing, and nutrition, she strives to bring you the latest news in the field.
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