What’s for Dinner? Group Meal Planning for Youth in Your Programs

On Thursday, February 26, 2015, the NSPN Communications Team (Elizabeth Smith Miller and Hillary Ladig) hosted RHYTTAC’s weekly Talk it Out Thursday discussion based conference call.  The topic… FOOD!  It’s cold outside and many folks are thinking ‪about and eating a lot of it! Why not talk about it? The goal of the topic was to share and hear what others are cooking, ‪life-hacks for the kitchen, recipes, tips and tricks of saving money at the store, and other stomach worthy ideas. We have some resources we put together from the call including some great ideas from RHY Grantees. We hope you find the following information useful. We invite you to join us every Thursday at 1pm ET. No need to sign up!  Just call us at 1-605-475-5950 and enter passcode 4560151# when prompted. Be sure to check your weekly TIOT email for the topic. Check out rhyttac.net to learn more about Talk It Out Thursday. Feel free to connect with us at [email protected] to share your ideas or learn more about NSPN, Safe Place, RHYTTAC, and HTR3!

What’s for Dinner? Group Meal Planning for Youth in Your Programs

Staying healthy is important!  It can be difficult staying healthy, within budget, and having something that actually tastes delicious when cooking for a crowd.  ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great “one stop resource shop” that will help accomplish these things!

This resource offers information such as:

  • Create a Grocery Game Plan
  • Shop Smart to Fill Your Cart
  • Prepare Healthy Meals
  • Sample 2-Week Menus
  • Resources for Professional

This resource offers information such as:

  • 10 tips for healthy meals
  • Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits
  • Make Better Beverage Choices
  • Be Food Safe
  • Enjoy Foods from many Cultures
  • Save More at the Grocery Store
  • Eating Better on a Budget
  • Choose the Foods You Need to Grow: 10 Tips for Teen Guys
  • Eat Smart and be Active as you Grow: 10 Healthy Tips for Teen Girls

What’s for dinner?  There are only so many recipes you can make in bulk.  Don’t let your palette get bored.  There are several resources online that share “Cooking for Large Groups” or try searching other key phrases you come up with.

Cultural and Ethnic Food and Nutrition Education Materials: A Resource List for Educators – http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/pubs/ethnic.pdf

Shopping, Cooking and Meal Planning:  Ethnic Cooking – http://www.nutrition.gov/shopping-cooking-meal-planning/ethnic-cooking

Mix things up! You have different cultures of youth in your programs; make sure to incorporate different food options.  It’s also fun and many taste buds will learn and be happy with something different!

Looking for ideas?  Check out your local and surrounding area’s High School Lunch menus.Here’s a sample menu: http://www.jefferson.k12.ky.us/Departments/NutritionServices/menus/lunchhs.pdf

The internet can be your best friend when searching for “Large Group Recipes”! – http://www.food.com/topic/for-large-groups

When buying lots of food for lots of people, it’s a must to do some budgeting!  Check out some money-saving resources.  You can also search online for specific needs and even check prices when making your list!  Yes, shopping can be fun.

SNAP-Ed Connection: Meal Planning, Shopping and Budgeting – http://snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/handouts-and-web-sites/meal-planning-shopping-and-budgeting

15 Tricks to Save Money on Food but Still Eat Well – http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/budget_cooking/15_tricks_to_save_money_on_food_but_still_eat_well

49 Ways to Save Money on Groceries – http://www.homestead.org/NeilShelton/Groceries/45WaystoSaveMoneyonGroceries.htm

Here’s a great resource on Homeless Family Facility Nutrition Guidelines – http://www.childrenshealthfund.org/sites/default/files/nutritionguidelines.pdf

During the call, we heard some received some fantastic input we’d like to share:

  • How does your organization plan meals for youth in your program?
    • Caller indicated that she spends a large amount of time accessing food and other resources from the community and creates menus around the donations received.
  • Do you have food-service staff members who prepare all meals?
    • Caller indicated that she takes on a large amount of the cooking responsibility and utilizes the opportunity to provide cooking classes (as a skills group) to the youth in the program.
  • How do you address specific dietary needs / restrictions among the youth you serve?
    • Caller indicated she serves a large percentage of youth from the Native American population and notes lactose intolerance is common. She stated she creates food alternatives when allergies or specific dietary needs are present.
  • Does your organization have a garden? Gardens are a great way to harvest and grow your own fruits and vegetables.
    • Caller indicated her program does participate in growing a garden and finds it to be very therapeutic to youth, as well as useful for Life Skills groups. She indicated the budgeting benefit depends on the foods being grown; however, they do utilize everything grown.
  • Do you have specific successes you would like to share?
    • Caller indicated that she does (and recommends) reaching out to the community for resources. She stated that she has built a relationship with the local hospital who packages and donates the leftover food to her program on Tuesdays.  She indicated that the hospital is makes fresh food every day and they recognize the value in donating unused food to the program.  She also indicated she continues to build the motivation for giving by having acknowledged them with a plaque, as well as keeping them informed with the meals she plans and serves around the specific donated food items.  Some items she mentioned receiving include: salad bar items, including chopped chicken she used to make chicken and vegetables, beef stir fry, other main entrees, fresh bread, and even desert items such as chocolate cake.  The caller also shared that every once in a while, the hospital will provide something extra to the program, such as a birthday cake for a youth.
  • What are some money-saving tips you have found helpful while shopping?
    • Caller stated that she is able to save money by planning the meals around the donations received.
    • Caller also indicated reaching out and working with local groups such as Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts for fundraising opportunities. Often times, these groups will host can food drives and other drives that benefit RHY.
  • Caller stated that she finds it very helpful to build relationships in the community.  She states the youth receive food stamps and the program will teach them how to “stretch their dollar” and access the best food sources while on the streets as they do not have access to kitchen appliances.  As convenient stores are a highly visited business by RHY, the program has connected with and obtained permission for the youth to utilize the microwave(s).
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