Recipe for Success is a nationally recognized foundation devoted to combating childhood obesity through innovative “Seed to Plate” education: Children plant school gardens, reap their harvest and work with professional chefs to learn how to deliciously prepare healthful food.
For the last four years, the organization has also held a fun, 3o-day “Veg Out” challenge to encourage everyone – not just kids – to eat more vegetables during the month of March, aka National Nutrition Month. The program offers all kinds of tools, incentives and prizes to keep participants engaged and on track.
Today I interview Gracie Cavnar, Founder, President and CEO of Recipe for Success about the program.
TLT: Can you tell Lunch Tray readers a little bit about the Veg Out program? What’s the main goal of the program and why does Recipe for Success feel it’s so important?
GC: VegOut! is a delicious food adventure that we initially developed to make National Nutrition Month more fun. We aim to encourage people to eat more different kinds of produce. Researchers say that the fastest way to a healthier lifestyle is simply to increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, so we thought we would make a game out of it and appeal to people’s competitive natures.
TLT: How does the “30 Ways in 30 Days” challenge fit into the overall Veg Out program?
GC: Our tools to help you VegOut! — the website and the mobile app [more below] — are available all the time, so anyone can VegOut! 30 Ways in 30 Days any month of the year. They can track how they do month to month and watch their friends, earn virtual badges, access recipes and share their experiences. Our annual Challenge in March simply has more gusto behind it, with a robust social media campaign, prizes and brand ambassadors encouraging more engagement among their friends and colleagues. We’ve developed our own “Veggie of the Day” list to promote recipes and photos throughout the month to inspire folks to keep going, and we actively encourage schools, and worksite to form teams in March.
TLT: How many years have you been holding the 30 day challenge, and is anything new this year?
GC: This is our fourth year to have the VegOut! Challenge and we’re excited to launch our new mobile app developed by Pariveda Solutions. The app allows users to access to all the tools on the website without having to be connected to the web. They can use the visual pic tool to track their veggies, see the progress of their team and friends and access our veggie resources like our recipes A-Z, map of where to find your veg, lesson plans for educators and more!
TLT: What are some of the incentives and tools you offer to keep participants on track during the 30 day challenge?
GC: This year we have an array of prizes for educators, students and general participants. We will award Back to the Roots mushroom kits for creative mushroom recipes; a rice cooker and basket of assorted rice from Riviana for the best veggie and rice recipe; and SNAP Kitchen is giving gift cards to the first 100 teachers who sign up! We have cookware from Rachel Ray, books from Eating Well, gift cards from HEB & Luby’s, and our grand prize drawing for finishers is a spa package at the Deer Lake Lodge. And there are more prizes appearing everyday.
We are also super excited to announce a Chipotle Award for the school with the most participation in #VegOut2016. The award will fund the costs to become a Recipe for Success Foundation Affiliate Partner and bring our Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ on campus. We think this is a very exciting opportunity, because it will allow a superstar school participant anywhere in the country to echo the healthy eating message year round and teach their students about healthy eating through our award-winning, integrated gardening, cooking and nutrition curriculum.
And we offer free teacher tools on our VegOut! website, including a 5-lesson plan VegOut! curriculum, facts about each veggie, trivia, a planting guide, coloring pages and more!
TLT: How do you suggest families best involve kids in the challenge? What should parents do if a child really dislikes vegetables?
GC: We’ve talked to many parents and they have found using VegOut! as a game is a fun way to involve their kids in the challenge. Many have created videos of their kids exclaiming the challenge to their friends and family to build up the hype and then they have veggie tastings to make things a little more interesting. One mom shared with us how each of her kids likes to take a bite of the vegetable and then follow it with a chaser like orange juice, water or milk. Others, incorporate their kids into the veggie cooking to make it a fun activity!
Making it a game takes the confrontational aspects out of nagging your kids to eat healthy foods. The veggie tracker is a pictorial pic list, so it’s perfect for sending the kids on a scavenger hunt in the grocery store—it becomes an adventure. When they get excited about things, its easier to lure kids to the table. And as we say in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ classes “Just taste.” Often times, kids surprise themselves. Of course they only get the credit if they eat it all—and you would be surprised how motivating it is to them to win something, even if its just a game badge.
TLT: Do you have any particular goals or benchmarks you want to reach this year?
GC: Last year we had participants in 31 states; this year we want to close the gap to all 50, and it already looks like we will have Canada too! We’ve created a network of worksite wellness partners, brand ambassadors and sponsors from coast to coast and in between–California to Colorado to Florida to New York–who are already preparing to take the challenge with us. The 55 NCAA Athletic Director Spouses and the nutritionists at Columbia Medical School—not to mention our hometown healthcare stars from MD Anderson to St. Lukes to Baylor, have jumped onboard. We even have the Houston Food Bank challenging all the other Food Banks in Texas.
We would like to hit 50,000 participants this year—wouldn’t that be awesome? Consider how many pounds of veggies that is!
TLT: Is there anything else you’d like to tell Lunch Tray readers about the Veg Out or the 30 day challenge?
GC: Come VegOut! with us and help us take the Challenge viral! It is easy and deliciously fun! Post a video of you challenging your friends, colleagues and family and or tag us in Facebook or Twitter with #VegOut2016. We want you to show the world that you VegOut!
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