If you had the opportunity to create a 6-week program for city kids, and wanted to incorporate the paleo lifestyle, how would you do it?
My passion is health/nutrition and fitness, and I'd love to bring that to these kids (or anyone who'll listen, really), but I'm not sure how to go about it, or if it's even feasible here.
I'd really love to get into nutrition, but could I do this for 6 weeks (not sure how many days/week - could be only 1 or 2) without getting over their heads? Or getting into the things about which they probably don't have much choice, like grass-fed, free-range sources? (I also wonder if this should even be an option, for fear that it'll result in irate parents whose kids won't eat what they're given anymore.)
Or could I focus on fitness alone for 6 weeks? Getting the kids to re-learn how to play and to use the outdoors as a jungle gym?
Or a combination?
OR......should I give it up and keep dreaming?
I work in the Baltimore public school system and I've got to say, I think it would be difficult to bring nutritional advice to kids who don't have some reason to seek it. From what I can tell, most kids have atrocious diets (and I remember I did when I was their age too), and they're young enough to get away with it.
I would say do some kind of fitness program focusing on healthy play activities. In Baltimore we have a program called Squashwise that gets inner city kids playing squash (which is one of my favorite play activities). It's a great program that gets kids interested more than I think a nutrition program would.
If you are interested in nutrition though, I think a great idea would be to do some kind of farming/growing/green thumb type thing. Everything you could grow would be paleo and I think you'll get more buy in from the kids (though maybe 6 weeks would be too short for such a program).
Are we to assume that "city kid" = low income?
If so, then no, I wouldn't focus on grassfed meat, organic produce, or anything like that. If you want to make change, work within their reality. Give them things that they can reasonably be expected to implement on their own with minimal monetary investment or adult involvement.
Teach sports and exercises that can be done with little, no, or improvised equipment (jumping rope, water-filled bottles for weights, kick the can), and at least some that can be done indoors, as they may not have a safe place to play outdoors.
Don't just provide healthy snacks - teach them to prepare healthy snacks and simple meals (depending on what is age appropriate - I don't know if you're talking kindergarteners or teens). Teach them how to follow a recipe. Look at the WIC food list and various posts about how to eat paleo on a budget and draw from there. Personally, I'd focus on fruits and veggies, but also look outside of the paleosphere and teach how to properly prepare dried beans, rice, and things like that.
In other words, empower them to make change, and make them feel good about whatever change they are able to make. Eating a dinner of beans and rice, or conventional eggs and meat, may not be perfectly ideal, but it's a heck of a lot better than a TV dinner or breakfast cereal. Don't diminish that by telling them that CAFO meat is going to kill them.
Do farm tours & work with the local farmers to have the kids come out to work on the farms for 1-2 hours. There are often community gardens in cities that have special programs you can be part of.
Hold a cooking class or two.
Go to a natural history museum & discuss the food/gathering/hunting methods of Paleo folks...
I admire your enthusiasm so will try not to be cynical, but that sounds tough! I don't think organic grass-fed would be a realistic proposition... Hell I can't afford that. If they're not having a good time and not engaged by what you're doing no lecturing would go in. Not sure what age group you're thinking of but focusing on the exercise/games and supplying some decent snacks seems practical. Perhaps a little surreptitious seed planting about the food groups our ancestors did and didn't come across, people getting fatter/sicker with some recent additions perhaps? I don't know if more than seed-planting would be any use, evangelism is less useful than setting an example. At least they'd remember that fit lady!
A six-week program would definitely be hard... if you wanted to focus on nutrition, I would try hooking up with (or even starting yourself??) a CSA program. A friend of mine interned with one that worked with a number of urban schools on vegetable garden products. That combined with a little anthropological background on traditionally available foods might light a few minds up. You could even try growing some grains just to demonstrate the work required to make them edible...
I'd look at the Oakland market for some "best practices". There is a lot goin' on w/r/t food justice in Oakland. One of the benefits of living in Oh'town is the freedom to 'farm' on your property. IMHO, the ability to grow healthy food on your property is an essential part of educating our youth.
Here are some programs you might want to contact for ideas and funding information:
Best of luck and let us know how your project progresses!