Healthy Food Programming helps children with food difficulties

February 05, 2021

Many of our students have difficulties with eating. Experiencing distress over food is a challenge that often attaches itself to people 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.

Our Healthy Food Program is helping.

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 include The Schenectady Foundation , The Allen Foundation,  The Arnold Cogswell Health Fund of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, and Schenectady Kiwanis Club. We encourage our readers to thank these generous organizations for impacting our children’s futures so greatly.

Follow our classroom stories to applaud the children who are expanding their food repertoires here! 

Healthy Food Program – Getting Kids to Eat New Foods

Prompting ProceduresCPSE to CSE Transition for Families