Healthy Picky Eaters

Getting kids to eat a healthy and balanced meal can be a challenge. Learn about Northern Illinois Food Bank's strategy for getting picky eaters to eat nutritious food.

Kids in Charge

Kids can be picky eaters. Sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason why they like one food over another. Let’s face it, even when you’re a forty-cough-cough-cough year old adult, you still base what you eat on eating habits developed as a child. For some kids, picky eating it is a matter of never experiencing new or different foods.

The key to getting kids to explore a variety of foods is to make food fun. By including children in the meal preparation process, the Northern Illinois Food Bank in partnership with Northern Illinois University’s School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Services has found a great way to encourage elementary aged students to eat healthier. The Food Bank offers a variety of child nutrition programs that supplement a child’s food intake after school, on weekends and/or during the summer. In addition to the food provision program, their Nutrition Education Program engages children ages 5-12 to experience making their own snacks with nutritious ingredients.

Through this program, children are exposed to foods they may not have tried before in a fun and positive environment. It allows them to participate in the meal preparation process, increasing the likelihood that they’ll want to try healthy foods. During each lesson, they learn about the ingredients and make their own decisions about what they eat. With curriculum focused on vegetables, grains, dairy, protein and fruit, there is a lot of nutritious and healthy eating happening once the pre-adolescent chefs are done!

What’s even better is that the Food Bank has created the curriculum to its website so that anyone can implement this model in their own community. Lesson materials include instructional videos that teach would-be facilitators how to prepare for the lessons, as well as how to guide children through the program. Downloadable guides, recipes and worksheets for the children are also available. The Food Bank also provides tools to help determine food quantities and expense.

It's really great to see kids get excited about cooking, trying something different. - Jennifer Lamplough, director of Food Education Programs, Northern Illinois Food Bank

Fighting Hunger

One in five children in Northern Illinois faces hunger. Since 2013, the Food Bank and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) have partnered on various dietary and educational programs for children.

These programs align with BCBSIL’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) initiative – one way BCBSIL fulfills our mission to stand with our members. Through more than 100 nonprofit community partners annually, we support food sources, increase physical activity, prevent disease, manage disease and promote safe environments. The Food Bank’s hands-on Nutrition Education Program empowers children to learn about and have a choice in what they eat. They become more than just picky eaters. They become healthy picky eaters!

Visit the Northern Illinois Food Bank website to learn more.