Starting young with a love of healthy fish

May 26, 2014 by Christina Williams
Starting young with a love of healthy fish

"Who's had salmon before?" Portland State community health researcher Betty Izumi asks her small and wiggly audience. 

One toddler arm is raised, another is tentative, a third looks at his toes. 

"Who knows where comes from?" Izumi poses. 

"'Laska!" comes the confident reply. 

The 3-year-old student at PSU's Helen Gordon Child Development Center is a well-informed pioneer. She and her classmates are the first to be studying salmon in a curriculum for pre-schoolers developed by Izumi's Harvest for Healthy Kids program. 

Through pictures, and hands-on activities involving salmon skin (proclaimed: oily!) and salmon eggs (tiny but very sticky!), a salmon costume (funny!) and even a taste of smoked salmon (yummy!), the curriculum is designed to instill an interest and appreciation for salmon among pre-schoolers in the hopes that they will bring this enthusiasm home and share it with their parents. 

Harvest for Healthy Kids began as a partnership led by Izumi between PSU and Mt. Hood Community College's Head Start program to expose young children to healthy foods. The Helen Gordon Child Development Center provided a handy place to test the new curriculum and fit in with the center's focus on healthy foods.

Starting young with a love of healthy fish

"The HGCDC nutrition program strives to cultivate an appreciation for food and where it comes from while providing opportunities for children to become engaged with cooking and food," said Ellie Justice HGCDC's Director. "We are delighted to begin a new partnership that aligns so well with these goals."

The salmon unit tested at Helen Gordon Center culminated with a lunch prepared by the school's cook Deb Sesnsenbach who brought the salmon from the fridge to show the students in the classroom. 

The salmon, in addition to some of the educational props, came from Iliamna Fish Company, a Portland-based community-supported fishery that fishes for salmon in Alaska's Bristol Bay every summer. 

Iliamna isn't the only Alaska connection. Izumi, who's done research in the 49th state, developed the salmon unit in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Alaska Native Health Research as part of a program called Fish to Schools. 

"The goal of the Fish to Schools project is to connect Native and independently owned and operated fish businesses with K-12 schools in Alaska," Izumi said. "The salmon unit builds on the success we've had with Harvest for Healthy Kids, which until now, has focused on promoting fruit and vegetable intake through in-class education, foodservice modifications, and family engagement."

Starting young with a love of healthy fish

The salmon unit will be deployed in Alaska this fall and materials will be publicly available on the Harvest for Healthy Kids website for free at www.harvestforhealthykids.org. 

Izumi would also like to see salmon included in preschool curricula and meals across Oregon, including the Helen Gordon Center, where her own daughter attends class and enjoys the creative food program.

"Deb does so much more than cook food for the kids. She works hard to help kids make connections between the food and where it comes from," Izumi says. 

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Bright lighting encourages healthy food choices

May 26, 2016

Dining in dimly lit restaurants has been linked to eating slowly and ultimately eating less than in brighter restaurants, but does lighting also impact how healthfully we order?

Big Data can save lives, says leading cancer expert

May 16, 2016

The sharing of genetic information from millions of cancer patients around the world could be key to revolutionising cancer prevention and care, according to a leading cancer expert from Queen's University Belfast.

New soap to ward off malaria carrying mosquitoes

May 13, 2016

(Medical Xpress)—Gérard Niyondiko along with colleagues Frank Langevin and Lisa Barutel has posted a project on the crowd source funding site ulule for a product called Faso Soap. They claim the soap can cut in half the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.