The Food Ed Coalition Spotlight Series highlights people and organizations doing amazing work in food education and access in NYC. Find more from the series on the Food Ed Hub.
Interview with Karen Schocklin, Program Director, Fan4Kids
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
1. What impact does Fan4Kids have on food and nutrition education practice and policy?
We teach both nutrition and fitness. We believe that fitness and nutrition go hand in hand when you're trying to help people live healthier lives. The instructor will teach a nutrition lesson one week and fitness lesson the next. During the nutrition lessons, we provide education so that students know which food is healthy for them and the different ways to prepare foods that are healthier.
Prior to COVID, we did tastings. We brought in food from each of the different food groups for the students to taste, exposing them to some new foods that they've never tried and food from their cultures that are healthy. Hopefully, we can help create healthier habits for students and their families.
2. Describe a “day in the life” at Fan4Kids.
The instructors are assigned specific schools that they go to every week throughout the year. In most of our schools, we teach one day a week, and in some schools, we are there two or three days a week. During lunch and recess, instructors will go to the cafeteria. They eat lunch with the students while talking about the food choices they're making.
We also do a Healthy Eaters Clubs where our instructors give tickets to students that are eating healthy foods. The more tickets students get, the higher the chance they have to win a raffle prize. We also give little stickers out at the salad bars if they've chosen healthy foods. So it is really incentivizing students to eat healthfully and letting them make decisions.
The instructors also go outside for recess with the students. They keep students active by playing fun games with them. Recess and lunchtime are good opportunities for instructors to build relationships with the students. Some days we do parent workshops which happen after classes. We provide tools and education for the parents on healthy eating and lifestyle.
3. How have your services changed since COVID?
In most of our schools, we are teaching virtually. Currently, we are teaching in-person at 2 out of 15 of our schools in a classroom with masks on and 6 feet apart. We started to create recordings. Something that's been really great is that our whole curriculum is digital now.
This year, we've introduced a new lesson which is about the power of group actions--that they are stronger and more effective than just one person's alone. We teach the students about coming together. The next step is finding out from the students what changes they want to make in their communities regarding nutrition and fitness. Then, we're helping them to write a letter as a class to their Congressional member. The goal is that we will be able to meet with the Congressional member to share what our students feel the changes should be in their communities. Given what’s going on in the world right now, we can teach students life skills that they are able to use after Fan4Kids to show students that they can work together, and there can be a change if they really believe in it.
4. How can people support your work right now?
They can also go on to our website to see what we're doing on a day-to-day basis. Just getting out and being healthy is what we want to teach people, and how to live healthy lives through fitness and nutrition. We're doing monthly events, inviting our schools and people in the community to join. Joining is another way that people can support us.
And for people who are able to donate, we are always open. We usually have a mid-year and end-of-year fundraiser. We had a mid-year one where we had two chefs teaching virtually how to cook specific meals. We're probably going to have something more in May or June again.
5. What is your favorite local fruit or vegetable?
I live in New Jersey, and I grew up in New York. New Jersey blueberries are like the state fruit. They're delicious! We have them mostly every week.