Health Nuts is a nonprofit, focused on creating an interactive approach to nutrition education in Denver Public Schools. The current state of nutrition education in the public school system is dismal, and students merely receive 3.4 hours annually. Instilling healthy eating habits in children is essential if they wish to live a long, prosperous life. This organization makes nutrition education convenient, by providing an after elementary-school program that has a nutritionist-derived curriculum and incorporates parents into the process. This after-school program aims to provide interactive, parental involved, holistic, convenient, and affordable nutrition education for children with the goal of ensuring better future health outcomes.
The reason we are choosing to do an afterschool program is that 17% of children in Colorado go unsupervised after school. Periods without supervision can be conducive to bad behaviors (staring at the TV), so we wanted to find a way for students to productively use their time when their caregivers cannot be present.
Each school that works with Health Nuts will have two, two-hour sessions each week with each class having an enrollment of up to 25 kids. The classes are volunteer-run, and in each class, the kids are introduced to healthy ingredients and learn how to make simple recipes. After learning about healthy foods in class, we will send students home with easy-to-make meal/snack suggestions. These will be taken home to be completed with students’ caregivers so that healthy habits can be instilled in the household, where students spend most of their time.
Health Nuts will break even in a little over two years, as it is primarily volunteer-run and will be doubling its outreach into new public schools every year. To ensure that schools will partner with Health Nuts, we have decided to adopt a revenue-sharing model in which schools get to keep 5% of the revenue earned. Some of the primary revenue streams for our non-profit includes public and private grants, donations, and the $10/per session fee. We find $10 to be an acceptable fee since the average cost of Denver afterschool programs is $14 (Grossman, Lind, Hayes, McMaken, & Gersick, 2009). For those who cannot afford the cost, it is intended that the school's revenue allocations will provide scholarships for those in need. Some of the major costs we expect to encounter include start-up costs such as legal non-profit start-up fees, printing costs, and purchasing a van for food transportation. We also expect to have yearly costs including administrative, drivers, and nutritionist wages.
In order to get the food for the program, Health Nuts aims to facilitate relationships with grocery stores to create a donation platform in which their unsold, perishable products are given to the after-school program. This not only helps reduce the amount of food waste produced by grocery stores but also ensures the sustainability of our non-profit. We found Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to be viable options for donations. Each organization has programs in which we can apply for donations, both monetary and in-kind, these are both organizations in which possess altruistic values. Additionally, we will have donations from the Denver community that will come as a result of parents seeing how efficacious our efforts are to alter their kids’ perspective on food.
We will also hire and pay nutritionists for being in charge of curriculum development and volunteer training. This curriculum will highlight the nutritional value of the food being cooked in the after-school session for that week. The curriculum will also include snack and meal recipes which are designed to be affordable. Each recipe will outline food material costs, preparation instructions, ingredients, and ingredient substitutes. The nutritionist will also train volunteers to teach this curriculum so that all students are receiving consistent, high-quality nutrition education.
There needs to be a greater emphasis placed on nutrition education. The prevalence of misconceptions regarding nutrition, especially considering the negligible amounts of time given to learning these concepts, puts children’s future at a severe disadvantage. With childhood obesity rates ranging around 18.5% in the United States (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019), there needs to be a change in the way children approach their health. That being said, this change can only occur in schools if a proper curriculum is constructed. Solely teaching kids about the food pyramid and telling them to “Eat veggies!” is not going to make an impactful change. With those trivial and ineffective teaching methods, students have zero ideas on how to implement their “learnings” into their reality. Moreover, 72% of K-12 teachers are uneducated on nutrition concepts, to begin with, meaning that a well-construed curriculum is necessary (Metos & Sarnoff, 2019). Health Nuts aims to provide this quality curriculum that truly shows students and their families the power of a healthy lifestyle: one that is interactive, accessible, fun, and easy to adopt.