Healthy Food Program - Getting Kids to Eat New Foods

October 06, 2023

In response to the well-documented aspects of food difficulties for children with autism, and knowing that we have the opportunity to create change for the individuals we work with, we run a Healthy Food Program here at Crossroads. This blog-spot is intended to share our experiences and success teaching children to accept new, healthy foods, through our Healthy Food Program. We hope we can help others, as well, who are struggling in this area. 

Autism 1 is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by social communication deficits and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior or interests (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Feeding and eating problems are pervasive problems that affect persons with autism across all ages and cognitive abilities (Råstam, 2008; Vissoker et al., 2015). For example, in their sample of 1462 youth, Mayes and Zickgraf (2019) found atypical eating behaviors (e.g. limited food preferences and brand-specific preferences) occur much more often in autistic children (70.4%) compared to children with other disorders (13.1%) and children in the general population (4.8%).

— As found here:

A Flavorful Journey of Discovery | 10.6.23

In our Healthy Food Program, students are embarking on flavorful journeys of discovery, one delectable creation at a time. Recently, Room 12 filled the air with the warm aroma of pumpkin cupcakes rising in the oven, and in Room 4, the sweet scent of simmering applesauce and apple treats danced in the air.

These young learners aren’t just making food; they are learning to tolerate new foods, specifically ones that are healthy. As they carefully peel, measure, mix, and stir, their culinary skills bloom. The pumpkin cupcakes, with their rich autumn flavors, introduce them to the wonders of seasonal produce, while the apple delights teach them the art of transforming fresh apples into healthy treats.

But this program isn’t just about cooking; it’s a strategy for entering into the world of healthy eating. Through hands-on experiences, these children are learning to appreciate the vibrant colors, tastes, and textures of nutritious foods, fostering a lifelong love for wholesome choices. With each bite of their creations, they take a step closer to a healthier future, one delicious lesson at a time.

Poppin’ Delight | 8.14.23

In pursuit of fostering healthy eating habits, Victoria, Room 13’s teacher introduced a novel approach to popcorn preparation that aligns with our commitment to promoting nutritious choices among students. Instead of utilizing the more widely-used microwave method, her group of students had the opportunity to pop popcorn kernels on the stove. This alternative method offers distinct health advantages.

Popping popcorn on the stove uses minimal oil and avoids excessive saturated fats and artificial flavors, the additives that are commonly found in pre-packaged microwave popcorn. Furthermore, this method allows for portion control, helping students become more mindful of their snacking choices.

An entire bag of Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Popcorn contains 455 calories, 28 grams of fat, including 14 grams of saturated fat, 7 grams of fiber and 945 milligrams of sodium. Most microwave popcorn is packaged with palm oil and contains milk powder to help provide that buttery flavoring. Some brands used an additive called diacetyl to produce that buttery flavor, but after use of diacetyl received some bad publicity in the early 2000s, most brands reformulated their products without it.


For Room 13, popping popcorn on the stove also presented a chance to witness the transformation from kernels to popcorn firsthand, sparking conversations about the science behind the process and the importance of making conscious dietary decisions. Victoria asked the children for predictions about what would  happen to the kernels when put on the heated stove, and they were excited to see the corn growing in size with a pop.

Afterwards the class enjoyed a healthy snack together.

It was also a great speech opportunity—practicing using measurement language (is it small or big, hot or cold) and using our language to request more popcorn in different ways (sign, AAC, vocally).

— Victoria Folino, Special Education Teacher, R.13

Whenever using appliances such as the stove with children, it is essential to provide adequate supervision and follow all safety procedures. 

A Simple Salad. 6.16.23

So many times, we think of salad as “boring,” but, did you know that making a simple salad can turn into an impromptu vegetable orchestra?

Just chop, chop, chop your veggies, and before you know it, you’ll have a symphony of sounds! The carrot slices go “crunch,” the cucumber pieces go “squish,” and the lettuce leaves go “rustle.” Add some dressing and toss it all together, and you’ll have a hilarious concert of flavors and textures that will make your taste buds dance!

Room 12 has been cooking up a storm this year, expanding their healthy food repertoires incredibly. Their salad-making symphony below captures all the kids engaging in the group.

So, next time you’re in the mood for a salad, remember to bring your imaginary conductor’s baton and let the vegetable orchestra serenade you with their delightful melodies.


Pizza Friday. 6.9.23

Pizza is not only a favorite for kids and adults alike, so getting their students to learn to make their own pizza was a great idea. Eating new and healthy things, expanding food repertoires, food preparation skills, and increasing independence are the main goals of the Healthy Food Program, after all. While generally, pizza is often associated with indulging, it also has some healthy aspects to consider. Here are three positive facts about pizza:

  1. Balanced Nutrients: Pizza can provide a balance of essential nutrients when prepared with wholesome ingredients. A well-made pizza can contain a variety of food groups, including grains from the crust, protein from cheese and toppings like lean meats or vegetables, and healthy fats from olive oil. This combination can offer a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fats necessary for a balanced diet.
  2. Vegetable Toppings: Pizza can be a convenient way to incorporate vegetables into your diet. Adding toppings like bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, or broccoli can increase the nutrient density of your pizza. These vegetables contribute vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, which are essential for overall health and can help promote a feeling of fullness.
  3. Shared Meal Option: Pizza often comes in larger sizes, making it suitable for sharing with friends or family. Sharing a pizza encourages portion control, allowing everyone to enjoy a satisfying meal without overeating. Additionally, the social aspect of sharing a meal can contribute to improved mental well-being, as it fosters connections and promotes a sense of community.

While these aspects make pizza a potentially healthier choice, it’s important to note that the overall nutritional value of a pizza depends on its preparation and ingredients. Opting for whole grain crust, choosing lean proteins and a variety of vegetables, and practicing moderation can help make your pizza a more nutritious option. That’s exactly what Room 12 did here!

Fun, Tasty and Healthy. 5.10.23

One of the best parts of the Healthy Food Program is seeing the progress our students make. Recently, Room 12 made pancakes with faces made by pieces of fruit. It was a fun and engaging activity that the kids absolutely loved. But it was more than just a fun activity – it was a way to introduce new foods in a non-threatening way. The kids were able to see that healthy foods can be fun and tasty. They were also able to practice important skills like measuring and mixing, following directions, and working together. Most importantly, they were able to try something new and overcome their food aversions. It’s inspiring to see the impact that the Healthy Food Program is having on our students, and we look forward to seeing even more progress in the future.

Our Healthy Food Program is Helping. 3.31.23

Many of our students have difficulties with eating; experiencing distress over food is a challenge that often attaches itself to children with autism. Eating food at all, trying something that’s new, even seeing food at an unexpected time or place can sometimes trigger to a variety of problems for someone who has food aversions.

If you’re someone who can understand how if feels to not want to eat or drink something that others say is good, well, so can we. We get it. But at the same time. we all know that rigid food preferences can lead to a host of health and dental problems which can be lifelong. Not to mention the heart-break that our parents go through every time they try to introduce a new food and their child balks. Or worse.

Once we recognize the importance of teaching our students to try new foods, gain some healthy foods in their repertoire, tolerating non-preferred foods in the same vicinity, then we can commit to the challenge of introducing and increasing the healthy food intake of our children. Their futures depend upon it.

Hence the Healthy Food Program. We started the program because of these very things. We’d see children who would experience such anguish over a new food, or the presence of food that their day would be shot. We’d hear from parents that they couldn’t get their child to eat anything crunchy. Others who wouldn’t eat anything green. Whether it was soft foods, or juicy foods, purple foods or yellow ones, the need for help was always urgent. We wanted to help.

The Healthy Food Program is set up so that  every classroom conducts a weekly HFP group. The lesson plans and activities are specifically designed for the kids that we have and based on feedback from our parents and teachers regarding the foods that are troublesome for the students. Cooking and food preparation activities are shown through research to boost kids interest and acceptance – when you are a participant you’re more likely to try what you made. The activities tie into current classroom themes. They are often integrated with Math, ELA, concepts and such. The teachers talk about nutrition and exercise, about hand-washing and food washing, about cutting and peeling, mixing and baking. Along the way to improved eating, many important skills are achieved.

Children are tolerating food in their presence. Others are trying new foods.

These are comments from some of the teachers just recently:
“R” will now sit at the table with the Healthy Food group.
“J” never eats at school. He finds several foods aversive to look at and touch. He now will participate in HFP by touching, cutting and smelling the foods.
“G” did not eat any fruit at the beginning of the program. He now enjoys bananas and apples.
“T” began to touch the foods we provide to her teeth, the to lick. Now she has started eating what we are making.
“”H” always refuses to try what we make. He tried peanut butter last week for the first time.
“L” has a difficult time with textures and will gag. He will now touch and “kiss” food, without gagging.

If you’re a parent of a child with food difficulties, you know how huge these little steps are. Even if your child eats well, but sometimes is “picky” over certain things, you can feel for the hope and encouragement that our parents can have when their child eats something new. It really is marvelous.

To increase the success of the child with healthy food intake, teachers communicate their Healthy Food activities to their students’ parents via their weekly newsletters and in their home-notes. Parents write to teachers about what their child is trying at home, what’s working and what needs are currently occurring. This is an important piece for both parents and teachers to be able to work together and carry over together the foods and strategies used for success.

We are incredibly grateful for the grants that make this program possible. Grantors that have upheld the program over the years include The Schenectady Foundation , The Allen Foundation,  The Arnold Cogswell Health Fund of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, The Rite Aid Foundation and Schenectady Kiwanis Club. We encourage our readers to thank these generous organizations for impacting our children’s futures so greatly. 

Scroll down to read some of what happens in Healthy Food Program activities in the classrooms:

Trying new foods can be a daunting experience for anyone  4.21.23

Trying new foods can be a daunting experience for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for children with special needs. However, thanks to our healthy food program, a class of children with special needs recently had the opportunity to try a variety of nutritious foods and expand their palates.

Under the guidance of our trained staff, the children learned about the importance of healthy eating habits and are encouraged to try new foods in a supportive environment. The results are truly amazing, as many of the children discover new foods they love and become more empowered to try new foods going forward.

At Crossroads, we believe that everyone should have access to healthy, nutritious food, regardless of their abilities or circumstances. It’s our hope that by introducing children with special needs to a variety of healthy foods, we can help them develop lifelong habits that will support their overall health and well-being. Today in Room 12, students tasted blueberries and kiwis. Here are a few benefits of these foods:

  1. Both blueberries and kiwis are packed with antioxidants, which can help protect the body against damage from harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
  2. Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K. They may also help improve brain function and memory, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy digestion.
  3. Kiwis are rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber, and potassium. They may also help boost the immune system, improve digestion, support heart health, and reduce inflammation.

Peas and Carrots | 3.31.23

Today, in the Healthy Food Program at Crossroads Center for Children, Room 12’s students prepared and ate peas and carrots together. The children worked together to prepare the vegetables and then enjoyed them as a healthy snack. By participating in this activity, the children were able to broaden their food repertoires and develop important life skills.


Butterflies | 3.27.23

The Healthy Food Program at Crossroads Center for Children is an innovative program designed to help children with autism try new foods and develop healthy eating habits. Last week, Mrs. Danielle came up with a fun and creative activity to encourage the children to try new foods: making “butterflies” using a cheese stick for the body and watermelon slices for the wings.

The activity was a great success, with the children of Room 12 eagerly participating and trying the new foods. By making the food visually appealing and presenting it in a fun and interactive way, the teacher was able to overcome some of the children’s restrictive food behaviors and encourage them to broaden their food repertoires.

This activity is just one example of the many creative and effective strategies that the Healthy Food Program at Crossroads Center for Children uses to help children with autism develop healthy eating habits. By providing structured and supportive environments for children to try new foods, the program is helping to improve the health and well-being of children with autism and providing them with important life skills that they can use throughout their lives.


Cookies Can Be Healthy | 3.20.23

The Healthy Food Program at Crossroads, overall, is to work on the food difficulties that our particular kiddos experience. Each week, teachers plan new opportunities for their students to encounter healthy foods, in order to give students access and experience to build a healthy repertoire of tolerated foods. Taking into account what teachers observe in the school day, and what parents have told us through surveys, each classroom plans its own activities.

Lately Room 5 has been baking. They make a recipe that is healthy and delicious, and then sell their goods to staff, along with Room 4 who has been making iced coffee and delivering them to staff. The program is a great way for kids to work on measuring, mixing, and then interacting with grownups safely within the building. Here’s a recent example of something yummy from the Room 5 bakers.


Waffle Masters | 3.15.23

To the chefs in Room 4, making waffles is a familiar activity,  and eating them is a mark of progress. The first time they made them with Ms. Kenzie’s waffle maker, there were some students who would not go near them. It has taken months of Healthy Food Program work by the team to get where they are today, every student loving to make and eat the waffles.

For students who liked them off the jump, the waffles were a fast hit. For others, it meant trying more than a few times, repeating the cooking activity, engaging everyone in the tasks of measuring, mixing and pouring. Getting one child to tolerate the waffles on the table, then in front of him. Giving it a “kiss”, touching it to his tongue, taking a tiny bite. All the while, team members providing reinforcement for these tiny but humongous steps.


100th Day Trail Mix | 2.10.23 

This week, classes have been celebrating the 100th day of school in lots of ways, including food preparation. Here, Room 12 makes a trail mix, and while not every ingredient is what you’d consider to be “healthy,” we are delighted when each child will try to eat something that is non-routine, or touching another food, foods that are different textures, colors, and flavors. Each student put in 100 of an ingredient and had a turn to mix the mixture together. It looks yummy!

Cooking Together | 2.9.23

Room 14 has begun a new group to cook together each week. Check out these young chefs all decked in their new gear!

Snow Owls | 2.3.23

Want your child to try a rice cake? Make it into an owl! It’s an idea that Room 12 used.

Rice cakes are easy to dress up, and by themselves carry several minerals, protein and are low calorie, and low carbohydrate. As an alternative to chips they still provide a good crunch factor, too. Using peanut butter,  apples, bananas, and blueberries, they created owls which tied right into their current theme of arctic animals.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches | 2.3.2023

Make a child a PBJ sandwich, and she or he will eat for a day. Teach a child to make a PBJ sandwich, and she or he will eat for life.

— Mothers everywhere.

Of the many aspects of life that bring quality and enjoyment, food nears the top for most of us. Enjoying food and being able to nourish ourselves when we need to is a part of independence that we strive to empower. Being able to make a simple sandwich, therefore, is a very handy skill, one that will come in handy frequently throughout the lifespan of a person.

Making a PBJ sandwich, while handy to be able to do, requires skills. Skills broken down into steps.

  1. Select 2 slices of bread and move them to a plate without squishing them.
  2. Get peanut butter on a knife.
  3. Spread the peanut butter to cover one slice of bread.
  4. Get jelly on a knife.
  5. Spread the jelly to cover the other slice.
  6. Put the two slices together.
  7. Cut the sandwich in half.

Today, Room 14 made PBJ sandwiches, each child completing the steps with various degrees of support from staff. The day will come when each will make their sandwich independently, because of the efforts of today. Happy eating, Room 14 students!


Arctic Animals | 1.17.2023

When children participate in making food, they are more likely to eat it. That’s why one of the most important aspects of the Healthy Food Program is involving the students in the process of food prep.

Tying the food to be made into a theme is a best practice. It helps children to make another connection to a topic or concept, and reinforces their understanding of it.

Here in Room 12, students who have been working on a theme of Arctic Animals, are making polar bears out of pancakes. Blueberry eyes, banana nose, whipped cream fur…

In addition to the theme and the involvement in food preparations, they are also getting practice with specific food prep skills, in this case, most notably, spreading. The art of spreading is a life-long kitchen skill that builds wrist motor skills, and even helps prepare muscles needed for handwriting. Check out these young chefs at work.

Waffle Masters | 11.14.22

It turns out that the children in Room 4 did so well with waffle- making and waffle-eating a few weeks back, that Ms. Kenzie decided to repeat the activity. As she and TA Ms. Flori gathered students to the table and began the activity, one child was overheard excitedly telling another, “C, we are making waffles!!” Here are the pictures we have to share!


Pumpkin Waffles 10.22.22

Why is it that we all don’t eat more pumpkin? Pumpkins are considered a “superfood” and are virtually packed with nutrients that protect and strengthen the heart. Yet we only tend to think of pumpkins for pie and jack-o’lanterns.

Ms. Kenzie recently bought a small waffle maker, and decided to give it a try with her class. Wanting to give her students all the nutrients they need, she found an easy pumpkin waffles recipe online, and Room 4 made them. Learning skills associated with food prep and cooking builds bonds between children and the foods they will eat, and so everyone in the class not only tasted their waffle, but actually enjoyed it, by all accounts.

Now it’s your turn to enjoy – have a look at our pictures and then maybe, try making something with pumpkin at your home.

Kiwis For a Texture Experience. 10.3.22

Kiwis  are full of vitamins and minerals, but to a child without prior knowledge of them, they might be intimidating.

  • First, their color is different. Brown on the outside, green on the inside – many students will find this a revolting color option.
  • Next, they are fuzzy. We know that the skin is edible, but many do peal it. The fuzziness is sure to off-put some of our students right off the jump.
  • Third, the flavor of a kiwi is tart. We have a lot of students with savory or sweet preferences, but not as many who are tolerant of tart.
  • Lastly, the juiciness of a kiwi can be over the level of acceptance for our kids with avoidance of wet foods.

Now that we’ve heard all of the things that relegate kiwis to the NOT list for kids, here we learn that last week’s healthy food for the classrooms was…. kiwis. Why? Why when they probably won’t like them? Because they need to have chances to try things they might not like yet.

Here are two of Room 3‘s students trying kiwis, and one sticking to a banana for today. We are so grateful to our HFP grants for making these opportunities possible.

Apples In 3 Different Colors! 9.22.22

As a member of our community, you know how even the smallest difference in food can be a trigger for a child with autism. A green apple? Or a slightly less red one? The difference is enough to upset many of our students.

But that’s exactly why we introduce it. Each child can learn that trying new and different foods can be exciting and fun. Along the way they will learn that eating healthy foods makes them grow and feel well.

Here is an apple-tasting moment in Ms. Victoria’s Room 13  Healthy Food Program. Not everyone did as well with this food as W and K this first time, but through the year, we will see lots of progress, with all of our classrooms.

Beans Right Off the Vine.   8.29.22

Does anyone else have memories of going out to the garden, picking veggies, and eating them right off the vine? It’s absolutely the best, sweetest flavor, that taste of freshness that is unequaled by anything else.

Ms. Steph brought the DAYCARE kids out to the garden and let them pick the beans that are growing.

She reported later that 3 of the children liked the beans, while 2 did not – YET! That means that with repetition, the beans may become accepted later on. In the meantime, all 5 enjoyed the experience of harvesting what we’ve been growing in our school garden this summer.

Sour Grapes? Not. 7.5.22

Red grapes contain protein, fiber, good carbs, and vitamins A, C and Calcium. They act as an anti-oxidant, and have a host of nutritional benefits.
Grapes are sweet and delicious, and often a favorite of children, so we want to help our students learn to love them.
At Crossroads, even though it is break week, we have a few children here for Daycare, and they enjoyed a bunch of grapes during lunch time the other day.  “Are they sour?” they were asked. “No, they are sweet!”
Thanks for sharing your picture and story, Daycare!


    End of Year Celebration –  Parents and guardians, we invite you to attend and observe our students as they engage in centers and receive an award, to celebrate a year of progress with our Special Olympics program and our Healthy Food Program.

THURSDAY, 6/9/22 9:45 – 12

Please bring your own chair and set yourself up at any spot you’d like. We ask that our audience stay stationary as much as possible to decrease distractions to our students.

The celebration will begin at 9:45 with remarks from Kelly Young and the Director of Special Olympics Upstate NY, Ryan Miller.  There will be three classes per half hour slot, all rotating through all the centers, and then receiving their awards. A simple but healthy buffet will be available for everyone.

Please rsvp by Monday June 6th to your teacher to help us plan.

Cutting Your Own Food is an Important Life Skill  5.30.22

“C” a student in Room 12 has been working hard this year on many things, including life skills. Being independent in as many ways as possible is important, and one of those ways is food preparation. C has learned how to cut his own food. Here we see his success with cutting his chicken nuggets for lunch, which he microwaved with supervision. He is doing a great job! Leave a comment that can tell him so!

5.20.22 Homemade bagels

Room 5 made homemade 2 ingredient bagels and rolls today!

Room 5 made homemade 2 ingredient bagels and rolls today! We baked them in the air fryer. While I was too busy facilitating while we were making them, here are some pictures of the baking process. Each student gets to scoop their own ingredients and mix it together in their own bowl. Can’t wait to eat them! Here’s the link we used for air fryer bagels:

— Rebecca Oliver

Grapefruit? 5.13.22

Grapefruit – a flavor that is sure sassy! A kid won’t always like it right away, that’s for sure. “M” here appears to have great distaste right away. But the fact that he is touching his tongue to the fruit is great. It’s a first step towards actually taking a bite of it. And with practice and repetition over time, the flavor very well may grow on him.

If and when that happens, he will have acquired a food that is rich in vitamins and nutrients. He will have one more healthy food in his repertoire. And that is a good thing.

Orange you glad there are oranges?  4.4.22

Oranges are sweet but tangy, squishy but firm, juicy on the inside but dry on the out, and, well, orange. They are so delicious to many, but not always accepted right away by many of our students.

That’s why oranges were the ingredient of the week recently; so that we can continue to work on a healthy food with so many reasons NOT to love it. Let’s sneak a peek at a group of students in afternoon Daycare, who enjoyed some oranges with Ms. Annie and Ms. Michelle.


Shamrock Shakes  3.15.22

Kiss It! 3.7.22

It’s highly common for our kiddos to reject foods that they haven’t tried before, and by “reject” we sometimes mean that there are some strong aversions. We’ve had children throw themselves on the floor because food was present in the classroom, engage in tantrum behaviors because an unfamiliar food was placed on the table, or simply flat out refuse to be near a food that was not the preferred color, texture, or method prepared.

We take our Healthy Food Program seriously; why wouldn’t we when we want each child to gain as many healthy foods in their repertoires as they can, in order to grow up healthy and strong, unfettered by rigid food behaviors.

Here is a wonderful moment with Room 3 recently, with some red peppers. The peppers are a sweet flavor, but the children didn’t necessarily know that beforehand. Melissa, the classroom teacher had them wash the peppers, then cut them – with supervision and assistance of course. When they tried the slices, one little guy in particular who struggles typically with new foods, was able to actually touch the pepper slice to his mouth when he was asked to just give it a kiss. This is a terrific way to give the child a chance to interact with a food when he won’t put it into his mouth. The next time, or the time after that when the food is presented again, perhaps he’ll touch it to his tongue, then someday take a bite. Remember that a food needs to be presented repeatedly for the child to accept it, so we don’t give up easily.


Peer Models for Healthy Food!  2.21.22

In Room 4, trying new foods has gotten much easier throughout the year. In fact, the students look forward to the Healthy Food Program that is presented in their classroom each week. Do you know that children with ASD may be up to 15 times more likely than neuro-typically developing children to have highly rigid food behaviors?  According to, restrictive eating patterns might very well be a diagnostic indicator.   That’s why we are committed to our Healthy Food Program? Below you’ll find a wonderful article from ASAT regarding this important issue.

And this is why we are so proud of our kiddos when they tolerate, try, or chow down on healthy foods, like these students here. One significant factor of our Healthy Food Program in our Preschool is that all of our preschool classrooms are integrated, so that our children with special needs are able to model their general education peers in eating, something that we’ve found to be a significant contributor.

Improving Food Selectivity of Children With Autism

Cool as a Cucumber  2.10.2022

Cucumbers are smooth and hard on the outside, and wet and slippery on the inside. The textures involved alone are off-putting for many, not to mention the flavor of a cucumber. So this week’s food to try was the cucumber. We have some pictures from our Daycare friends, who not only tasted cucumbers in their classrooms during the day but tried again after school. Great job being healthy, friends!


12.21.21 Trying Something New

Pineapples look a bit intimidating, you’ll have to admit, if you’ve never seen one before. They’re scaly-looking, and a strange green and brown color, and it’s unimaginable that it could be edible.

But last week, the healthy new food that everyone tried was pineapple. We often get the foods for the Healthy Food Program from Capital Roots, and that’s where the pineapples came from, all 12 of them, one for each classroom. Room 2 was kind enough to get pictures and share them with us.

The children in Room 2 were decidedly reluctant from the get-go, says Ms. Annie. But she showed them how the outside was protecting a delicious fruit on the inside and encouraged everyone to try it. Not everyone was a fan but at least they all gave it a try. The next try will take less persuading, and possess more familiarity.


9.27.21 Eating In Proximity of Others

It’s something lots of people take for granted, that eating nearby other people is acceptable if not preferred. However, many of our students come to us never having had the experience of eating with others, especially if families don’t eat together, or if children are fed at a different time from the grownups in a family. Certainly eating with a group of new peers and teachers is something new for almost all new students who are in our youngest classes. And it’s something that takes some practice, for sure!

So here we see kiddos in Room 7 during their first week of school here. Teachers help each wash hands and transport his or her snack to the table. When a student has difficulty tolerating others in the same space, staff will work with gradually over the course of time getting the child closer to the table, to be part of the group. When students need help with wrappers and clasps, they are given help in a way that teaches the student to gradually build the skills independently. And interacting with each other is also part of the snack of mealtime, an effort to build language skills.


8.18.21 Pairing Preferred and Non-preferred Foods

When it comes to eating tomatoes, Room 12‘s learners are not enthusiastic. But tomatoes have been a goal, and now that they are in season, they make a perfect healthy food to try with the group. Cutting things functionally is also a goal for most of the students here, and cutting tomatoes is a great match for the task.

Still, students balked. Just the knowledge that the activity would be healthy and help practice important fine motor skills, not being enough of a motivation to actually tasting the tomatoes, more creativity was needed, and the team came through. Adding cheesy goldfish crackers and bread as needed made the tomatoes more inviting, as the strategy of pairing foods often does. Take a bite of this then a bite of that, a tomato then a goldfish, and so on.

Everyone didn’t love the tomatoes, but everyone tried them. And for now, that is a great success.

By the way, the tomatoes came from Capital Roots, where we buy produce on a weekly basis! Eating By Colors

Sometimes here at Crossroads, the recipes are simple. This is an example! In Room 13, there are students who are working on learning the colors. The names of colors, the spelling of those names, identifying objects of that color, and so on. Some of the kids also have some rigid food behaviors around colors, too, which means that colors are a perfect target for the Healthy Food Program.

Remember that it is important to reinforce kiddos for any progress, even if it is just touching it to their tongue, or with their finger. Coupled with repeated exposure to difficult foods, reinforcement is always the main strategy in our Healthy Food Program. Another tip is to pair the difficult food (color in this case) with a liked food (or color); for instance, the difficult color being orange, it could be paired with a blueberry or a strawberry that the child has liked in the past.

In this set of pictures, the food and the color is orange. It’s simple to see how you’d follow the same directions for diverse foods and colors.


Oranges  1/4 per child


Paring knife

Plates 1 per child


Talk about orange, spell it, locate other items in the room of this color…

Wash oranges

Cut into quarters

Place on plates


3.31.2021 Rice & Beans Bunnies

Bunnies are on the lesson plans with Easter coming up! These bunnies hopped right into Room 14 to help students with their healthy eating goals!


Cooked rice  1/2 cup per child

Cooked black beans 1/4 cup per child


Large plate or baking sheet


Cook rice as per directions

Cook beans as per directions

Give each child a baking sheet and ingredients

Provide a model to show a finished bunny


3.26.2021 Salad

Salad is a favorite that can be a part or whole of a meal, depending upon what you include. In Room 12, as long as there is RANCH dressing, it is a special treat. These kids like their salad!

Ingredients per child:

lettuce – 1/2 cup

tomatoes – 2-3 slices

baby carrots – 3 slices

cucumbers – 3 slices

ranch dressing – 1/4 c.

Supplies per child:

1 plate or bowl

1 paring knife or plastic knife


Wash all vegetables.

Pat dry.

Cut vegetables into slices.

Build salad on plate or in bowl, starting with the lettuce.

Top with dressing.


3.22.2021 Rainbow Kabobs

While we recognize that sugared cereals can’t really be called “healthy,” we also know from 21+ years of experience with children and helping them to broaden their pallets that it is frequently necessary to start with small steps. For example, a child who finds crunchy foods to be aversive might actually benefit from something sweet and crunchy as a doorway to other crunchy foods. Or a child who will only eat foods of a certain color might find that other colors are worthy if they are accompanied by the preferred color. That said, this activity also gave the children some fine motor exercise! This factor is nice for children with motor development needs which would make putting them on a string or lanyard frustrating.


Fruit Loops – 4 or 5 loops of each color per child

Marshmallows – 1 per child to keep cereal from sliding off the skewer.


Kabob skewers – 1 per child

Paper plates – 1 per child


  1. Provide a model of the order of the rainbow colors as needed
  2. Place fruit loops one color at a time on the stick
  3. Eat and enjoy

3.18.21 Dr. Suess Hats

When it comes to Dr. Seuss icons, the HAT worn by the CAT is probably the best-known one. And it’s one that makes for a delicious and healthy treat, too, it turns out. See what Room 12 did to practice their food prep skills and to eat it too.


Bananas – 1/2 per child

Strawberries – 1 per child

Kiwis – 1 slice per child


Paring or plastic knives – 1 per child

Paper plates – 1 per child


  1. Wash all fruit.
  2. Cut the bananas into slices; place on plates.
  3. Cut the strawberries into slices; place on plates.
  4. Cut the kiwis into slices; place on plates.
  5. Stack, starting with the kiwi, then alternate strawberry, banana, and end with strawberry.
  6. Enjoy!

3.8.2021 Green Eggs

Some of our classrooms integrated their Healthy Food Program plans with their Dr. Seuss Week plans. We have two wonderful stories shared by classrooms who did just that.

Room 8 

Every year Susanna has the most creative, fun, and awesome plans during Dr. Seuss week. Today, she had a great plan to make Green Eggs inspired by Green Eggs and Ham. All of our children really enjoyed the activity. We worked on social skills such as waiting for a turn, sharing, and passing the ingredients to their peers. We also learned about cooking safety, how to stir ingredients, and hygiene (washing hands, washing dishes, and being safe in the kitchen).

— Shannon Faulkner

3.7.2021 Cat in the Hat Kabobs

In Room 5, we finished our Dr. Seuss week off with Cat in the Hat Kabobs. Students received half a banana and some pre-cut strawberries. We practiced knife safety using plastic knives to cut the bananas into smaller pieces. Then practiced making a pattern by alternating strawberries and bananas and placing them on skewers. The students all had a great time! It was a great way to end our Dr. Seuss week.

— Rebecca Oliver

See what other cool activities went on here during Dr. Seuss Week:

Dr. Seuss Week at Crossroads!

2.9.21 Apple Nachos

A delicious treat with at least some healthy ingredients was made in Room 2. These kiddos gobbled up all of the apple nachos; no question whether they were tasty! You can make this individually, each child making his/her own, or you can make one family-style dish and the whole class can enjoy a portion.


Apples – 1 per child

Peanut butter – 1/4 c. per child

Raisins – 1/4 c. per child

Caramel sauce – 1/4 c. per child


Spoons – 1 per child

Paring or plastic knives – 1 per child

Paper plates – 1 per child (or one baking dish if you’re doing it family-style, as R.2 did here.)


  1. Wash the apples.
  2. Cut the apples into slices; place on plate.
  3. Mix the peanut butter to coat the apples.
  4. Sprinkle the raisins.
  5. Drizzle with the caramel.
  6. Enjoy!

2.5.21 English Muffin Pizzas

Room 8 recently made English Muffin Pizzas, and a fun and simple snack or lunch item for children.

  • Ingredients:

English muffins – 1 per child

Spaghetti sauce – 1/4 c. per child

Mozzarella cheese – 1/4 c. per child

Topping ideas – pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers…

  • Supplies:

Plastic spoons – 1 per child

Plastic knives – 1 per child

Paper plates – 1 per child

  • Directions:
  1. Cut the muffins in half, and place on plate.
  2. Spread the sauce across both halves.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese.
  4. Place the toppings.
  5. Bake in oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  6. Enjoy.

See what Ms. Shannon said.

All of the children enjoyed making the pizzas. You’ll see that K and J are close in the pictures as K was trying to assist J in making his pizza. It was a great social moment of K trying to help J spread the sauce onto his pizza.  All of our children really enjoyed tasting the sauce and mozzarella cheese before it was cooked.😂

— Shannon Faulkner

1.27.21 Penguins on an Iceberg

Arctic animals are quite a popular theme here at school this month. Since it can incorporate a wealth of individual subjects, such as geography, habitats, animal categories, animal habits, climate, and weather, it’s a great theme, rich with opportunities for exploration and individualization.

Room 5 found this to be true and last week finished their unit with this Healthy Food Program activity, Penguins on an Iceberg.  

On Friday, January 22 we finished up our arctic unit by making “penguins on an iceberg.”  We used cream cheese on celery for the iceberg and raisins for the penguins.  Just a little twist on “ants on a log.”  The students did a lot of it on their own and we practiced knife safety using plastic knives.

— Rebecca Oliver
  • Ingredients:

Celery – 1/3 stick per child

Cream Cheese – 1 Tablespoon per child

Raisins – about 6 per child

  • Supplies:

Plastic knives – 1 per child

Paper plates – 1 per child

  • Directions:
  1. Wash the celery.
  2. Cut the celery sticks into thirds.
  3. Place the stics onto a plate each.
  4. Spread the cream cheese in the well of the celery stick.
  5. Place the raisins in the cream cheese, spreading them out.
  6. Eat and enjoy!

1.20.21 Yogurt Polar Bears

When teachers plan their HFP activities, lots of times they like to incorporate their classroom themes. It helps to build bridges between different aspects of the theme. For example, Room 14 has been working on a theme of Arctic Animals. They’ve been creating artworks of animals, conducting research about their animals, writing about their animals, and conducting experiments that relate to arctic environments. Mrs. Lindsay has made math problems about animals and found books about animals. This HFP activity is a way to tie this interesting theme together with healthy eating, using yogurt as a way to increase students’ textural tolerance. There are always improvements when students are repeatedly given opportunities to try and retry foods that are not preferred at first.  Room 14 also shared pictures of a Healthy Food Program snowman activity with pancakes and waffles that they had fun with back in December.

  • Ingredients:

Yogurt – 1 c. per child – vanilla or plain

mini marshmallows – 2 per child

mini chocolate chips – about 6 per child

  • Supplies:

Spoon – 1 per child

Cup – 1 per child

  • Directions:
  1. Spoon the yogurt into a cup (or use individual containers).
  2. Put 2 eyes (chocolate chips) on the face.
  3. Put 1 nose (chocolate chip) on the face.
  4. Put 1 mouth (3 or more chocolate chips) on the face.
  5. Put 2 ears (marshmallows) on the face.
  6. Eat and enjoy!

1.15.21 Yogurt Smoothies

We want to expose our youngsters to different textures, flavors, and temperatures. We also want to familiarize them with food preparation utensils, equipment, and appliances. A wonderful, simple, and healthy food activity that fits all of these qualifications is smoothies, and we have the opportunity to join Room 12‘s HFP group today as they made fruit smoothies. The students enjoyed this activity and drinking the smoothies.

A bonus of using the blender is that it is loud! At the get-go, this is aversive to many of our students, but that’s why it makes for a great opportunity to work on desensitization. Letting the children have the control of starting and stopping the blender (with direct supervision), helped to build acceptance and tolerance of the sound.

  • Ingredients:

Yogurt – 1 c. per child

Milk – 1/4 c. per child

Fruit – 1/4 c. per child

  • Supplies:


Pairing knife and cutting board if cutting fruit



  • Directions:
  1. Allow the child to choose the fruits they would like, if possible.
  2. Combine ingredients in the blender.
  3. Blend on medium speed for one minute.
  4. Pour into cup.

12.16.2020 Banana Snowmen

Here’s a healthy snack that kids will want to make and eat. Let the children in Room 2 show you how.

  1. Ingredients:

    Bananas – 1/2 per child

    Pretzel sticks – 3 each

    Raisins or mini chocolate chips – 6 each

    Skewers – 1 each

    Apple chunks- 1 each

    Red grapes (optional) – 1 each


    1. Cut banana into slices about 1/2 inch thick.
    2. Place three slices with the flat sides facing out onto a skewer.
    3. Lay the snowman down; the side facing up will be the front.
    4. Place 2 raisins (eyes) on the top (head) slice.
    5. Place 2 raisins (buttons) on the middle (tummy) slice.
    6. Place 2 raisins (buttons) on the bottom (base) slice.
    7. Stick 2 pretzel sticks (arms) into the tummy sides.
    8. Stick an apple chunk and/or grape (hat) on top of the head.
    9. Stick a bit of pretzel stick (nose) into the face.
    10. Eat & enjoy!

10.19.2020 A Taste Test of Our Garden’s Harvest

Growing one’s own food is as healthy as one can get, and we’re lucky to have had a lot of help growing some veggies here this summer.

Volunteers at Work

Growing vegetables is exciting for children (and adults) because of the progress the plants make from seeds to seedlings to producing something edible. All through the summer, children here helped water the garden beds and enjoyed eating tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and peppers.

Last week, Room 5’s activity incorporated both trying a new healthy food and a life science lesson! Here’s a note from Mrs. Rebecca:

“Today we tried the pepper from the garden. First I cut it open and showed them the seeds and talked about how the plants grow from the seed. We talked about where we found this pepper and how it was mostly red but a little green in some parts.”

A glance at her pictures lets us know that students in the group found this activity interesting, if not delicious to all. What a great job trying something new and healthy!

10.5.2020 Ants on a log!

Healthy food program activities are ripe with opportunities for developing all types of skills. The most obvious ones are about trying new foods: tolerating non-preferred foods in one’s proximity, accessing new smells, textures, flavors, colors, and shapes, and accepting food items in locations that are different. But there are also many other types of skills that come into play in this program. For instance, there’s always surface and hand washing before and after a food activity. Then there are fine motor skills such as peeling, cutting, placing, and spreading, which are lifelong skills for cooking, and hand strength skills for development. The aspect of working on food activities in a group setting is a big factor, too, as socially, modeling others who are eating and trying new things often helps children consider doing so themselves.

Room 2 recently made ants on a log!

Here’s their recipe:


  • Celery
  • Peanut butter or nut-free substitute
  • Raisins
  1. Wash and cut celery stalks into thirds or halves.
  2. Spread peanut butter onto the celery.
  3. Place raisins on the peanut butter, spacing them according to preference.
  4. Eat and enjoy!

Photo credits to Danielle Winning.

Thank you to our parents who have sent in their HFP surveys for this year! This allows our classrooms to target the foods your child has difficulty with, and monitor for growth in healthy food intake throughout the year. It also allows us to share impact of the program with our readers and the grantors who make this program possible.

We are thankful to Arnold Cogswell Foundation of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, and to the Schenectady Kiwanis Club for supporting our Healthy Food Program this year.

9.28.2020 It’s Apple Season, and with it, there are lots of apple activities happening.

Room 12, for example, made apple sauce the other day as their Healthy Food Program activity.

Students first washed hands, of course. Then they peeled apples and cut them into small pieces. Teachers and TAs helped students as needed to cut up the apples which they later put into a crockpot with a splash of sugar and cinnamon to cook all day.

Here’s their recipe:


10 apples

1/4 c.water

Pat of butter

1/2 c. sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon


Wash apples.

Peel apples.

Cut apples into bite-sized chunks.

Place all ingredients into crock pot.

Stir and turn onto medium.

Cook until mushy, stirring every so often – (about 2 hours).

Eat- yum!


This year our classrooms have changed the way they’re doing HFP (Healthy Food Program) for the time being. In keeping with our health and safety protocols for reopening in the time of COVID19, each class is planning, purchasing, and running their HFP activities separately, and the cart is not being used at this time. Please look to your classroom newsletters and home-notes to see what’s happening in your class.

Thank you to our parents who have sent in their HFP surveys for this year! This allows our classrooms to target the foods your child has difficulty with, and monitor for growth in healthy food intake throughout the year. It also allows us to share the impact of the program with our readers and the grantors who make this program possible.

This year, we are thankful to Arnold Cogswell Foundation of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, and to the Schenectady Kiwanis Club for supporting our Healthy Food Program.

Grateful to The Arnold Cogswell Health Fund

Thank you, Kiwanis Club!

11.29.19 Healthy Food Program Tip –

It’s always important to take into consideration the child’s individual needs and goals, what they are able to eat easily currently, and what is desired for them to eat down the road in time. Sometimes a food is presented and a child is readily agreeable to eating it or at least trying it. But when a child is resistant to eating a food that is presented, there are some ways to decrease that resistance without forcing the issue. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Suggest that the child just touch the food. Model touching it, picking it up, seeing what it looks like, and putting it back down. Obviously, this is easier with a piece of broccoli or a cracker than with mashed potatoes, but try to be creative.
  2. Along the lines of # 1, think “fun.” In some cases, especially with kids with strong food aversions, it is O.K. to “play” with food, to make it into something, to get used to touching and smelling it. Think of the examples of pretending the spoon is an airplane flying into their mouth, or making a picture on the plate with the broccoli as a tree, and the cheese as a mountain.
  3. Ask the child to just sit at the table while the food is present. They don’t have to do anything but wait for others to eat, or for a set time period that is achievable for the child. This is sometimes the tactic when the child is highly upset by food just being present. Over time, you can try moving the food closer to them, and reinforce them for staying calm. You can then try increasing the requests to touching and so on.
  4. Ask the child to “kiss” the food. It’s less aversive to kiss the food than to put it into the mouth or to take a bite, and sometimes the silliness of kissing it breaks the resistance a wee bit.


11.22.19 Healthy Gobbles!

Getting students to eat new foods and increase their intake of healthy foods gives them a bigger repertoire of foods they will tolerate. Today in Room 4, students were making turkeys from their healthy food ingredients of cheese, cheerios, carrots, and red grapes.

Children who are hesitant about trying something often will model their peers who are enjoying the foods or will allow the teacher to put the food closer to them on the table, or even touch it to the student’s lip, and reinforce the child for “kissing” the food. It can take time, but it is important to keep trying so that children are able to grow up healthy and strong!

10.24.19 Healthy Halloween!

Halloween is next week, and at Crossroads we believe in bringing all of the current holidays and seasons into our Healthy Food Program! Here are some pumpkins made from clementine oranges and celery, along with some banana ghosts with raisin faces. The ingredients are all on our list of foods named by various parents here as difficult for their child, or something they’d like to see him/her start to eat. These were yummy and challenging, yet simple for little fingers and super fun. Thanks, Rooms 5 & 3 for the spooktacular pictures!


9.27.19 It’s the start of the school year, which means a new year of planning for the Healthy Food Program. Today in Room 14, students worked on the important food preparation skills of washing and cutting cucumbers. Next they spread their choice of hummus on the cucumber slices and made sandwiches. One of the students was asked to label the household items they were using, such as plates, spoons, and knives. Another was asked to hold up a cucumber, and another child to identify its color. All of the boys requested which flavor of hummus they wanted and all did well with trying their creations too!








9.27.19 HFP Tip:

A fantastic strategy to familiarize children with new foods is to put the food item into the child’s proximity. The food can be offered to the child, but if it is refused, then reinforcement can be given to the child for just sitting with it presently. Next time, place it a little bit closer to the child, and then even closer the next. Eventually, you’ll be able to have him or her touch the food and reinforce that. Then to “kiss” it, to touch it with the tongue, to take a tiny bite, and eventually to eat a bite.

This method does take time, but some major gains have been made in this way, step by step, a little more each day.

Yummy cucumbers and hummus in Room 7.

Why we have this program at Crossroads!


One week over Summer Session, Room 11’s classroom theme was REPTILES. Another week it was OCEAN ANIMALS.

Here are some pictures of them making avocado guacodiles and waffle fish.

Looks as though these learning experiences were as yummy as they were fun! Great job everyone trying new and healthy foods!

8.8.19 Healthy Food Program – so cool it’s freezing.

If you’re looking for a super simple, super cool activity to beat the heat with kids, here’s one that’s sure to be a winner. It certainly was with Room 1’s students recently.

They made yogurt popsicles, by mixing yogurt and fruit, pouring their mixture into a cup, inserting pop-sticks, and freezing.

Wow, what a lot of great skill-building opportunities here – from mixing and pouring, to the science of freezing. All of that on top of the thrill of the taste of a frozen pop. You can almost feel the brain freeze!

The activity was very popular; teacher, Mrs. Kathy reports that this was a definite hit with her students.


7.23.19    At Crossroads we’re quite into our Healthy Food Program.

Getting kids to try new foods can sometimes be a challenge for families at home. Parents tell us this all the time. At Crossroads, we’re quite used to the “picky eater” syndrome; a large percentage of our population experiences difficulties with foods.

It’s the reason for our Healthy Food program at Crossroads. Through this program we repeatedly offer new, healthy food choices, work through challenging behaviors that children might exhibit in response to the presence of non-preferred foods and teach about nutrition and healthy food concepts. Essentially we get the students to try new things and expand their repertoire of healthy choices.

As you can imagine, this takes creativity on the part of the teachers. How to get a child to try broccoli when they balk at the sight of green foods? Or cheese when they don’t like anything white?

Our teachers come up with a wide variety of exciting food preparation activities to meet the individual needs of their classrooms.

From cheese stick snowmen to banana butterflies, the healthy food activities are aimed at tying into the classroom themes and incorporating new foods as well as familiar ones that children need repetition with. By making the foods theme related, children are engaged in a greater way and bridges are built between what they already understand and what they are challenged by.

Our Pinterest Healthy Food board

Here are some peaks into Room 12’s recent project. They are making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and practicing the fine motor skills of spreading and cutting. Further, this activity has them using star-shaped cookie cutters to make their sandwiches into starfish, tying into their seashore theme.

Research shows a correlation between healthy eating and involvement in food preparation. In other words, it seems that kids who are involved in preparation of their food are more likely to eat it. By making their own snacks, students are more likely to actually eat them. Plus, by making foods together with their class, there are opportunities for kids to model the eating behaviors of kids who enjoy eating the food in question.

Crossroads is ever thankful to The Schenectady Foundation for their generous grant that enabled us to start up this program in a school-wide, consistent manner several years ago. Crossroads is also thankful to the Allen Family Foundation for a grant to expand and sustain the program into this current year.

A new grant application for the 2019-20 school year is in the works. If you would like to donate to this or any of the programs at Crossroads, please visit our DONATE page and let us know of your wishes.

Crossroads Center for Children is located in Rotterdam, NY. We offer preschool, nursery school, daycare and elementary school classrooms for students aged 2-12 years old. Call us for more information! (518) 280-0083

4/1/19 Healthy Food Program brings skills and grows food intake at Crossroads.

This update is from Ms. Kate in Room 14. She made apple & peanut butter mouths with her class as they are learning about Dental Health!

12.3.18 – The Healthy Food Program Takes the Elevator
Each week, one classroom takes their turn to push the Healthy Food Program snack cart around from room to room, offering healthy snacks.

The students love picking veggies and fruits from the cart when offered by their peers. The students whose turn it is love pushing and asking friends if they want to try celery, cucumbers, bananas, and so on.

Last week it was Room 4’s turn, and they were so cute in the elevator! The teachers asked the students to push number 2 for the second floor, giving the boys a chance to work on identifying numbers. Then, the doors shut and the elevator started to go up as the number was pushed. The adorable facial expressions were just priceless!

Crossroads remains ever thankful for the grants that fund this important program. The Schenectady Foundation has been a long-time funder of our Healthy Food Program and this  year, a grant from the Allen Foundation is also supporting this work.

10/12/18:  Yummy Applesauce.

Yummy applesauce! A recent Healthy Food Program activity in Room 13 involved practice with cutting, measuring, and putting the ingredients together into the miniature crock-pot.

Then stirring, and waiting for the time to taste it! All it takes is a few apples, a little bit of cinnamon, sugar or honey and water to make this delicious and healthy snack or side. Supervision for safety was very important; that said, this is a great activity to try at home! Please let your child’s teacher know if you do, and how your child enjoyed the prep and the food!

Sep 11, 2018 – Off to a Healthy Food Start

The start of the school year, which started last week, means many things, including gearing up the Healthy Food Program in each classroom. It’s a program to target the many food difficulties that many of our students experience, and a way to get them eating good things from an early age.

Here is Room 14 last week enjoying a Healthy Food Program activity of making their own fruit salad. Making choices, trying new foods, using functional communication and behavior to tolerate new items in proximity and more!


This program area is funded by grants! Thank you to The Schenectady Foundation and the Allen Family Foundation for this year’s support.

Looking back – a post from Dec 21, 2017

Did you ever make a waffle Christmas tree? Room 6 did recently!

As part of their Healthy Food Group, they made their waffle mix together and added green food coloring to the bowl. The teachers used a waffle maker while the kids watched in awe, and when the cooking part was done, triangles were cut and the children got to place them to create trees!  Next came decorating their trees with m&m “ornaments” and a bit of maple syrup.       Since trying new foods is a goal, some children in the class needed some coaxing to try this, but everyone took a bite and several of the children finished their plates. How much fun was for the students and what a creative way to tie in the season!

The Healthy Food Program is goal-oriented to bring about healthy eating patterns for all of our children here, and carry over to home when many parents try the recipes or ingredients that were made in the classroom at home. Most of our teachers agree that repeated attempts are necessary to get children who have food difficulties to tolerate and try new foods, so the more tries the better. This grant-funded program has been strongly supported by The Schenectady Foundation this year, and is greatly appreciated!


Room 6 is one of the seven classrooms for preschool and nursery children. Crossroads Center for Children also has three school-aged classrooms and is getting ready to open a fourth. Students come from many districts and counties in the surrounding region. Many of our nursery and daycare students come right from the local vicinity.

5/2017 Our Healthy Snack Cart is a huge hit with the kids each Thursday!

Here, a young man from Room 12 is cutting up oranges to put on the cart. He sets it up each week for the classroom in charge of pushing it around each week. Every week he has grown more and more independent in the tasks, like getting the fruit and vegetables, finding a board or plate to cut on, getting a bag open to put the foods in, and putting the sign on the cart to tell everyone what’s being offered that day.

He is also getting great at going to the classroom of the week and telling the teacher that the cart is all set up and ready for her class to push. That is a lot of skills! A lot of progress!

********************************************************************************* We are ever grateful for the support we receive from grants that are sustaining our Healthy Food Program (HFP). This year, funding from The Schenectady Foundation and The Allen Foundation is making the program possible.

3/2017 The Healthy Food Program, so important for our children, is funded solely through grants from foundations. So far, we’ve gotten wonderful support from The Schenectady Foundation, in Schenectady County, and The Hawley Foundation, in Saratoga County.

This program is designed to help our students – most of whom experience aversions and difficulties with foods – become more tolerant of new and different foods. Our teachers do a miraculous job of weaving cute food activities into their lesson plans, incorporating themes, and the very foods their students find most challenging.

Here, Room 1 is eating all green foods! They have peppers, grapes, pickles broccoli, and just a little taste is a big goal for some!

Want to volunteer to help with our Healthy Food Program? Be a Classroom Helper! Please contact for information about volunteering.

2/ 27/2017

Our Healthy Food and Nutrition Development Program has a new way of reaching our students!

About a month ago we started a weekly Healthy Snack Cart, and it’s been going really well!

On Wednesdays, what we’ve ordered from Capital Roots Veggie Mobile comes in. Some of our students sorting out the fresh veggies and fruits, and delivering to each teacher’s classroom what she’s ordered for that week’s Healthy Food Program.

This young man takes great pride in doing this job, and then on Thursdays, also washing the items and setting up the Healthy Snack Cart.

The Snack Cart goes out from room to room offering the students an opportunity to make choices. There are usually 2 or 3 healthy items to choose from. The classrooms rotate, so that each classroom can have a turn to be the deliverer.

There are many benefits to this program. One is that it enhances the in-classroom program by offering additional healthy foods. Another is that for many students the options on the cart are more attractive because of the novelty of the cart, than they are when offered by the teachers or their parents. Yet another is that this gives our students yet another arena in which to practice their communication skills, such as manding for the items they want, and scripting to offer items to each other. There are also the job skills such as setting up the cart, pushing the cart, and organizing it.

We think it’s just awesome. We couldn’t do it without the help of the two foundations who have supported this program with grants – The Schenectady Foundation and The Hawley Foundation. Thank you to both of these amazing organizations for their help!

3/2017 The Healthy Food Program, so important for our children, is funded solely through grants from foundations. So far, we’ve gotten wonderful support from The Schenectady Foundation, in Schenectady County, and The Hawley Foundation, in Saratoga County.

This program is designed to help our students – most of whom experience aversions and difficulties with foods – become more tolerant of new and different foods. Our teachers do a miraculous job of weaving cute food activities into their lesson plans, incorporating themes, and the very foods their students find most challenging.

Here, Room 1 is eating all green foods! They have peppers, grapes, pickles broccoli, and just a little taste is a big goal for some!

Want to volunteer to help with our Healthy Food Program? Be a Classroom Helper! Please contact for information about volunteering.

1/9/17 What is the Healthy Food Program all about?

The healthy food program, which is funded by grants from The Schenectady Foundation and The Hawley Foundation, gives all classrooms at Crossroads the resources to plan and implement activities and lessons for healthy food and nutrition development. Each teacher develops a program to help the students in her particular classroom to gain interest in new and healthy foods, to increase intake of healthy foods, to decrease food rigidity, and to help develop lifelong eating patterns that are healthy and varied. This program is working to help combat the problems with poor nutrition that are present today with individuals on the autism spectrum. A very important aspect of the program is the high level of parent – teacher communication regarding which foods are being tolerated that might not have been previously, and certain strategies that are helping.

This program is having all kinds of great success. Watch for our Happenings! updates here on our website to see some of the things that our classrooms are doing to help!

12/18/16 Banana Snowmen

Having the opportunity and experience to make your own snack makes eating healthy foods more motivating! And when you make your own snack look like a Snowman, well, who wouldn’t want to try eating that! The students in Room 4 made these banana snowmen in their Healthy Food Program.

Our Healthy Food Program is an important aspect every week in all of our classrooms, helping our students develop healthy nutrition, through cooking and food prep activities, hygiene and life skills, and lessons about nutrition and fitness that are geared to the needs and abilities of the classroom. Our teaching teams do a fantastic job planning and implementing these lessons and activities in their classrooms. Teachers are seeing so much progress in their classrooms!

Through their weekly parent newsletters, teachers communicate what they will be making. More individual information is written on the home-notes. As well, parents who might want to come in during their child’s Healthy Food group time are encouraged to communicate this interest with their child’s teacher to schedule a time.

Our Healthy Food Program is funded by 2 grants – one from The Schenectady Foundation, the other from the Hawley Foundation. We are so thankful for this support for all the progress we see with our students.

12/1/16 Name that reindeer!!!

Reindeer Treats for Room 6 – they used graham crackers, peanut butter “glue”, raisin eyes, pretzel antlers, and an M&M red nose!

Teachers and many parents are commenting that the students are more likely to try something new when they make it or help to make it. Also, modeling their peers helps some children tolerate new things.

We are thankful to The Schenectady Foundation, and the Hawley Foundation for this grant-funded program that allows every teacher to plan and implement exciting Healthy Food projects in each class every week.

10/2016 – Healthy eating is super fun!

What color is this vegetable? What is it called? Is it bigger or smaller than this vegetable? Taste it – yay!!

Ms. Deanna and her Room 7 team introduced steamed veggies last week with great success. Everyone had a try at each of the foods, and almost everyone kept eating. Room 7 has seen some excellent success this year in healthy eating goals, relays Ms. Deanna! The group gives them lots of opportunities for social interactions as well.

This program, so important for our children, is funded solely through grants from two foundations this school year -The Schenectady Foundation, in Schenectady County, and The Hawley Foundation, in Saratoga County.

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