Nutrition and education are interconnected and deeply affect the lives of the families we serve. Studies show that nutritional deficiencies early in life can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, concentration, academic performance, and have a lasting, detrimental effect on learning and memory.
In response, we expanded the health component of our work to include a new curriculum for home visits, additional healthy cooking and nutrition classes, family nutrition events, and intentional, health-focused instruction for Way to Grow preschoolers. In doing so, we are able to further address the growing health disparities facing Minnesota families such as poor nutrition, obesity, and hunger.
Last year, our health and nutrition program reached all 739 Way to Grow families. Results from our home visit nutrition education surveys found 97% parents reported increased access to healthy foods and 92% of parents indicated increased nutrition knowledge. In addition, parents say they are making reductions in the amount of sugars and salt in their children’s diets and are increasing the amount of daily walking and movement with their children.
“I recognize that healthy habits are essential and very important to maintaining a healthy body. I learn that to eat each food in the  groups is important for good health,” a Way to Grow parent shared.
In partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension Services, Way to Grow also offers Cooking Matters, six-week cooking and nutrition courses for parents and their children. Families learn skills for healthy cooking, eating, and shopping, as well as how to plan healthy meals on a tight budget. During the class, a professional chef demonstrates how to prepare those nutritious meals at home and parents leave with the groceries and knowledge to be able to cook healthy meals for their families.
Parents are a child’s most important teacher in all aspects of life. Our work continues to educate and empower our families to create not only a culture of learning in their home, but also one of health and wellbeing.