Could Blubber Burgers Encourage Your Child to Junk the Junk?

Every week, families meet at Estes Hills Elementary School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to boost family wellness with a cooking and nutrition programme called Cooking Matters. Hosted by Community Nutrition Partnership (CNP), a non-profit based in Chapel Hill that serves Orange County’s low-income residents, Cooking Matters gives families the tools and skills to plan, budget and prepare healthy meals.

The programme teaches families about how diet affects their wellbeing using an unusual technique; blubber burgers. By putting seven and one quarter teaspoons of fat between two buns, children learn just unhealthy their favourite junk food is. According to second-grade student Simone Brown, ‘It looked creepy! And it tasted horrible!’ The children also converted grams of sugar in beverages, such as Coke, Snapple and Gatorade, to teaspoons and found they need to change their choice of drink.

Simone’s mother Kisa noted that her daughter seriously considers the fat and sugar content of foods before deciding what to eat. Jillian Mickens, CNP program manager, knows just how necessary effective nutrition programmes like this are. ‘People seem to forget that, I guess, especially in an affluent place like Chapel Hill,’ Mickens explained. ‘It’s not hard to find people that need assistance with food or nutrition education or hands-on training about how to cook healthy.’

Estes Hills Principal Drew Ware enthused, ‘Programmes like this are about growing the whole child, which is the vision of the district. It’s about bringing families together with the school.’ Literacy teacher Mary Andrews, who organises the programme, added, ‘You see children engaged in cooking, asking good questions and trying new foods—trying things they would never try when they’re at home.’

Recently, the families met for their final class and graduation, and enjoyed homemade sliders –made from antibiotic- and hormone-free meat – with fresh toppings, fruit and guacamole. Dipping his fork into the guacamole for a taste test, Carol Centeno, a freshman at East Chapel Hill High, commented, ‘It’s perfect. Better than my mum’s!’ Waving his burger in the air, fourth grader Alfonzia Perry, added, ‘Cooking’s great! Just to make something delicious and then taste your own creation—it’s great!’

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