Jessica Connell, aka Ms. Jessica, is the Hannaford RD for Exeter and Portsmouth. She recently shared with us about her Kids in the Kitchen program. The class is for kindergarteners and up and runs twice a month in Exeter and once a month in Portsmouth. Each month, about 30 kids attend with an adult.
Ms. Jessica creates a healthy meal for the kids to prepare and takes them on a Guiding Stars tour of the store looking at the foods in their recipes. “It’s amazing to watch the kids grasp the Guiding Stars program,” Ms. Jessica said. “They truly understand that three stars is best (super duper healthy, as I tell them). After the tour, we wash up and then chop, mix and measure our ingredients. Sometimes we actually cook the food in store and have dinner together. Other times the kids go home and finish cooking the meal with their family. This allows children to taste new foods, learn kitchen skills, participate in an activity with their caregiver all at no cost!”
They’ve made a variety of things over the last three years: stuffed shells, Mexican casserole, teriyaki meatballs, Asian spring rolls, healthy sweet treats, and fast lunch items, to name a few. Ms. Jessica has kids try all kinds of new foods to expand their palettes.
Ms. Jessica told us, “As you can tell, this program is my passion project. I love working with the kids and feel like I’m helping them develop a healthy relationship with food using an all foods fit mentality. In a time with so much food confusion, rules, and crazy diets, it’s important to go back to basics and get kids in the kitchen. Learning to cook and try new foods is critical for these kids to develop lifelong habits that can change the health of our future generation.”