Skip to content

Integral to ending hunger, the Foodbank’s children’s nutrition education aims to improve health habits for kids experiencing food insecurity

(Santa Barbara, CA) – The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is expanding its award-winning Children’s Health Initiative, a series of programs collectively called “Feed the Future,” with a brand new “Food Creativity Lab” (FCL) with a pilot beginning at Dos Pueblos High School on February 25.

During four, free, monthly sessions, high school students will explore the nutritional and health value of a variety of foods, engage in hands-on cooking, learn to plan and budget for meals, and practice food photography.

Participants are being invited and will self-enroll in response to a video campaign via “DP News,” a weekly student-created news program shown in all Dos Pueblos classrooms once a week.

Three faculty members of the FCL, each of whom will teach during every session, include Foodbank nutritional biologist and director of community education Lacey Baldiviez, PhD, chef Troy Peterson of Merci Montecito and Sansum Clinic registered-dietician Christina Archer, a member of the bariatric (weight loss) surgery team.

“The Food Creativity Lab engages young adult students through their own natural curiosity and desire to express their creativity,” explains Baldiviez.

“We are excited to help students build a deep connection with foods in their most basic, natural state, through the lenses of sensory experience, cooking skills, and the fascinating effects food has on our bodies. Students will walk away with the tools they need to making healthy eating decisions in a variety of life circumstances, particularly when facing limitations in terms of time, money, and resources.”

With wisdom gained from the pilot program, the Foodbank plans to host Food Creativity Labs at all area high schools in coming years.

Recipes and lessons in the first session may include chicken parmesan with zoodles (veggie spirals instead of pasta), portion size/control, the role of fats in taste and health, and using seasonings to best health and taste effect.

The FCL is part of a countywide expansion of the Foodbank’s education programs for youth, through which the organization aims to end hunger by empowering and equipping children with skills they need to eat healthfully on any budget. As they move into adulthood, children’s skills learned now can positively affect future generations as well. Immediate impact from these programs can reach across generations when students take home fresh produce, new food knowledge and recipes to share with parents and grandparents.

From January to May 2020, the Foodbank will also expand its existing children’s programs countywide, increasing service to youth in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Cuyama and Guadalupe.

Food Literacy in Preschool (FLIP) will grow by 80 percent, with the addition of four new locations. FLIP introduces low-income preschoolers to a “Farmers Pick” fruit or veggie each month, with curriculum that includes picture book read-aloud, experiential learning and tasting. Children take home a bag of the featured produce item with bilingual nutrition information and recipes to share with family.

Two new sites of the acclaimed Kids Farmers Market (KFM) program will result in an eight percent increase. KFM provides K-6 students with nutrition education and basic cooking skills, with recipes like salads, slaws, cabbage tacos, salsas and fruit parfaits, also featuring the Farmers Pick produce item of the month. Following their cooking and nutrition lesson, participants “shop” at a free mini-farmers market which includes several produce items, and take home about eight pounds of produce, along with recipes for the foods they prepared and ate during class.

Kids Farmers Market will take place at 28 locations and will serve more than 1,800 unduplicated children throughout the county during the current school year.

KFM is offered in partnership with after-school programs at Santa Maria Bonita School District, Goleta Union School District and Santa Barbara Unified School District; Boys & Girls Clubs in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara; the Chumash Learning Center in Santa Ynez, People’s Self-Help Housing, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, and more.

Farmers Picks for the 2019-2020 school year are as follows: October, apples; November, grapes; January, mandarins; February, broccoli; March, pears; April, tomatoes; May, strawberries. Additionally, as of this year, all FLIP and KFM programs will use exclusively compostable plates, cups and utensils.

Teens Love Cooking (TLC) will see a 150% increase with the addition of six new locations this year. TLC is the Foodbank’s middle-school program that includes more complex nutrition curriculum and advanced cooking skills, including safe knife practices and heat cooking methods. TLC students participate in seven weekly classes in which they learn about various aspects of nutrition (good fats, protein sources, etc.) and prepare a different cooked dish as part of a group. Dishes include culturally diverse recipes from Colombian lentils with rice to ratatouille to veggie chicken stir-fry. At the last class session, students prepare a family fiesta to share what they have learned with loved ones.

All of the Foodbank’s children’s programs are taught by volunteer nutrition educators who are trained in curriculum from the Foodbank.

About the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is transforming hunger into health by eliminating food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy. The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through a network of more than 300 nonprofit community partners and more than 1,500 volunteers. In Santa Barbara County, one in four people receive food support from the Foodbank, which equates to more than 190,000 unduplicated people, 40% of whom are children. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 10 million pounds of food – nearly half of which was fresh produce. The Foodbank is assuming a major leadership role in countywide disaster preparedness with initiatives including disaster food boxes, disaster feeding plan, establishing a new south county warehouse and updating our trucks for safer food storage and transport. For more information, visit


Back To Top