2016- the launch of The Food Clinic at TreeHaus
In 2016 saw the launch of The Kids Food clinic – exploring, enjoying and eating food.
The sessions ran for an hour after school for 6 weeks and covered topics such as
- Why do we eat?
- What is food? Protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and good fats
- Is all food the same? What would your favourite super hero or athlete eat?
- What is in your lunch box? What foods will help you in school, at sport and playing?
- Pancake decorating with different fruit
- Preparation with cleaning, chopping and making pizza on flat bread
The six weeks exceeded all expectations. It was lovely to see to see how after only a few times in the kitchen, children grew in confidence and willingness to participate in activities. While the main goal of the program was to plant the seed of curiosity and engage, a lot of creativity and overall confidence was fostered. One child went from not wanting to touch certain foods, to making the most creative and beautifully prepared pizzas.
Our society is faced with a serous epidemic of children who are overweight and this is affecting their lives – it is costing our health system millions. Whether it is children who are overweight or children who are not taught healthy habits because it seems irrelevant when they are young. In Australia being overweight and obese has more than doubled in recent years and it is affecting all walks of life. A quarter of Aussie children are considered overweight and obese, and the issue is causing –
- Health problems
- Social problems
Once children are overweight it requires a lot of effort and commitment from their part to return to a healthy weight. Sadly, it can be an isolating and a hard time for them both at home and amongst friends and the cycle perpetuates rather than coming to an end.
The potential health problems children face when overweight or obese are
- Type 2 diabetes- once only a common condition amongst adults is now commonly diagnosed in children
- Eating disorders developing from a heighten awareness from themselves or the outside of how big they are
- Liver issues such as fatty liver, with young children/adults needing liver transplants
- Respiratory disorders such as breathlessness during exercise and blocked airways
- Sleep apnoea where they can’t sleep due to breathing difficulties, the poor sleep quality has a detrimental effect of concentration and hunger hormones
- Cardiomyopathy a condition of the heart where it works harder than normal to pump the blood around the body
The social problems that arise for children are issues such as bullying and feeling excluded and unwanted, which results in low self-esteem and body image problems. The psychological aspect of this impacts the way they interact with the world, their ability to develop friendships and relationships, as well as competency at school.
In a world where food is more available than ever before, people are living more sedentary lives and big food corporations are spending billions on lucrative marketing and advertising- children are essentially over fed and undernourished and overstimulated.
The Food Clinic offered a space for children to come and learn about their bodies and share in making meals and kitchen activities. Studies have shown that families are turning increasingly to ready-made meals in preference to homemade meals, as there is little time for family meals around the table and cooking skills are not being passed down or taught.
It may feel like we are fighting a losing battle against the clever marketing and advertising out there, and what seems like not enough hours in the day to fit everything in, however change starts at home and within the family.
Apart from arming oneself with knowledge by seeing a professional such as a nutritionist, you can start to engage children from the time they sit up in a high chair. Get them involved in the kitchen, food shopping and preparation- it teaches them lifelong lessons and habits.
Interventions like the Food Clinic at TreeHaus are a great prevention tool- they help plant the seed of health and wellbeing in childhood and support children in forming healthy habits for life.