As I walked from my car towards the school grounds, it was like a scene out of a movie. Over a hundred girls in varying heights and coordinated t-shirts,  stood in a semi-circle around a Troop Leader with a bull horn. She was standing next to the American flag spelling out the rules of the Costa de OroInvestigate Your World Day Camp. This was the Santa Barbara Girl Scouts Summer Camp and I was there to present a session on reading food labels.

When a Troop Leader asked me if I’d be interested in presenting to a group of nine and ten year old girls, I was excited. This would be my first opportunity to present to kids. The challenge: “Label Reading” for 100 nine to eleven year old girls over two days. I had 30 minutes to enlighten, entertain, and educate. I knew audience participation and some sort of hands on exercise was a must. This lead me to the grocery store where I purchased a boatload of popular kid food.

After telling my story, I began the session with an introduction to the nutritional facts label and was delighted to discover how much the girls already knew. I used a Fritos chip bag to illustrate serving size (did you know one bag contains 11 servings?) and then moved on to the ingredient list. It was fairly obvious to me that when these girls were looking at their food, they were looking at fat and calories and completely ignoring the ingredient list.

Then the fun part. I divided the audience into 6 groups. I gave them each two similar foods: crackers, chips, applesauce, popcorn and juice boxes. I gave them 5 minutes to read the labels of both products and come up with their observations. They stood up as a group and shared what they read on the labels. It was incredibly gratifying to hear these tweens talking about preservatives, sweeteners and colorings. I am happy to report that they really got it. We ended the session talking about things they can do to help the family eat better. A few quotes from the closing:

“When my mom and dad ask me to go shopping, I’ll say yes.”

“I’ll start reading labels from now on.”

” Just because something tastes good, don’t mean it’s good for you. You have to check the package.”

Music to my ears…

Do you have kids? Make label reading a family task. As soon as your little ones can read, include them in the process at the grocery store. Give them two comparable products and ask them to select the one they think is healthier. Hand them the junk food they are begging for and ask them to tell you why you won’t buy it (or why it’s only for special occasions). Label reading is a ritual that when incorporated into shopping at an early age, will become habit as kids grow up.

If your child attends elementary school in the Santa Barbara area and you are interested in Be Food Smart coming to your child’s class, please contact us. This particular Label Reading presentation lasts 30-40 minutes and is best for kids in 4th – 6th grades.

All Images (with the exception of last photo) by: Ananda Dalidd