In honor of National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables month in June, Second Harvest Food Bank hosted the 1st Annual Fresh Games for our Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
With the help of 8, 12-year-old volunteers, we visited 9 summer food sites to play with our food. As a bonus to the planned activities, each site received fresh fruits and vegetables for the kids to sample. Over the course of the Fresh Games, nearly 316 kids (plus 8 volunteers) were exposed to healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Each activity brought a fun, new experience for the kids at each site and for the volunteers too! Our first activity: Fruit Bingo.
Each child was given a bingo card that had various fruits and vegetables on it. To make the game more hands-on, they were given grapes as markers for their board. If you won a bingo, you got to make your own smoothie out of the following ingredients: spinach, kale, strawberries, bananas, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, and apples.
After several bingo wins, it was time for everyone to try a smoothie. My volunteers worked together to make delicious and fun smoothies for all of the kids to try. The consensus was positive: the kids LOVED smoothies.
Then, we had to drop the bomb.
Did you all like your smoothies?
(Positive wild cheers erupted)
What could you taste in your smoothies?
(Incoherent yells of strawberries, watermelon, banana, apples)
Can I tell you a secret?
(Positive wild cheers – Take 2)
There are vegetables in that smoothie!
(Shocked quiet, fake gagging sounds, cries of disbelief – you’d have thought we poisoned them)
After the announcement shock had faded, surprisingly, most of the kids were not phased and still wanted second helpings before we began to clean up and they began to move on to their afternoon recess.
As we were cleaning up, a boy of about 8 walked up and gave me a hug out-of-the-blue. I hugged him back and he responded:
“I just wanted to thank you for giving me a new experience today. I have never tried a smoothie before and it was awesome! I want to eat more fruits and vegetables now!”
Excited and touched by the moment, I smiled at him and thanked him for being a leader and being open to trying new things. After he ran off, my volunteers were surprised that he had never had a smoothie before. Making this a learning opportunity, we spoke about the trade-offs families often have to make to stretch their budgets.
When a family is shopping on a budget, perishable items are traded for shelf-stable items. Perishable items like fruits and vegetables are a risk because they only have a short lifespan.
When a family doesn’t have regular access to a grocery store or lives in a food desert, it can be difficult to get perishable items frequently. Families with a tight budget also don’t have the luxury to try new things. If they don’t like it, it’s a waste of their money and every dollar counts.
At each site, we saw the impact that the activities were having. Having fun with fruits and vegetables was not something that the kids got to do often.
Whether it’s formal education or a game, making learning fun is important. Topics like nutrition can be hard for kids to stay focused on and it’s important for kids to stay engaged in their education. Spending time teaching these kids about the intersection of food and fun goes to show that playing with food is not always against the rules.
Child Hunger Corps Fellow