Kids Deserve Good Food
Life is full of unexpected gifts. It is tough, and passion work is certainly not easy. But these kids without a parent inspire me to persevere. There are beautiful things happening at Real Food Recovery. Yes, we sell my cookbook to afford our efforts, but only bits of information, recipes and taste tests have been shared. Now, we are growing and the grand plan for these orphan kids is becoming more of a reality.
A Plan Unfolds
After fostering kids for about five years, we transition into helping out more children through group homes. Having success with improving behaviors within our family’s home, we knew that we could reach out and touch more lives than only the two children the State would allow us to bring into our home at a time. Therefore, I have volunteered at several orphanages over the past few years. However, a year and a half ago I begin a relationship with a local orphanage home and the incredible people who are a part of this home. There are Executives, Directors, Supervisors, a dedicated Social Worker, a Cook, and of course all the Foster kids.
My goal is to teach and empower these children to make better choices with the food they put into their precious bodies. In our home, we notice that every foster child improves in their; behavior, health, mental acuity, and perspective within a few weeks of living with us. In the beginning, no child wants the food that is healthy. There is too much allure to the colorful, sugary, processed foods. But given time and opportunity, the taste buds and the gut will change.
Deepening the Plan
Surprisingly, very quickly on, the head of this division of this Children’s Home asks me if I would write their menus since their Nutritionist left. It is a volunteer role, and you would have thought he offered me a new car! As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I said, “Of course” knowing full well that the State of Florida requires a Registered Dietitian to sign with me. Now I have to find a “real food” dietitian which is not as easy as it sounds. By the way, real food is a phrase used to encompass food that comes wholly from the earth. All the processed foods like; candies, breads, and foods that are preserved to last a long time on the shelf aren’t quite as real and nutritive as cutting some lettuce from the ground and eating it that week.
I’ve never been a believer in coincidences, so with this opportunity, the details must already be prepared for me. Plus, it was my greatest dream to empower and educate these kids; getting to create the menu is an unbelievable gift to influence a change in their bodies. It was almost as good as letting me have all the kids live in my home.
Meet Danielle, Real Food Dietitian
As foretold, by no coincidence, I have a social media acquaintance on Instagram who truly has a holistic passion as a Registered Dietitian (RD) in the State of Florida. Reaching out to her, she willingly agrees to review my menus, help with necessary changes voluntarily, and sign with me for the State audits required for institutional menus; which includes this Orphanage. Danielle has since moved to work as the pediatric RD for UCLA, but remains licensed in Florida for now. She is such a gift, and I’m grateful to have her donate her expertise to help this work move forward. Danielle is the real deal! She has been a guest on the RitzFit podcast and she improves the lives of sick kids in the hospital at UCLA every day! Danielle can be found through her online educational business as the Real Food Dietitian.
Now the state requirements are fulfilled, so the work begins to educate these kids at the orphanage to choose to eat well. It is undoubtedly a labor of love. We can’t put it on the menu if they don’t eat it. Mamas make sure the kids eat what’s on their child’s plate, but orphans do not have that model, and no one on staff wants to be that “bad” person at mealtime. A parent takes this battle on with the full role of parenthood which doesn’t exist in this environment. Yet, despite these facts, I want to share the hope of it all.
We see such wonderful changes occur. The staff notice a difference in the children the most. Teachers at school begin to notice. The kids are very aware of their decisions on what they put into their bodies. Even when lousy food choices occur, there is still a forward motion. Sometimes, the children are adopted or move to another home. As grace would have it, each child tells me before they leave and I can encourage them to take what they know about good food to change the people around them and to keep themselves healthy.
It’s in these times that I step back to appreciate what is happening. When I stop looking at where I want them to be and appreciate where we started with each child, these little celebrations thrill me! Small changes happen over time. We change and improve the foods while the kids slowly widen their palates.
This week after a long year’s effort, we have permission to bring fresh, local, produce from a beautiful local farmer, Little Pond Farm. These vegetables are full of nutrients and are now incorporated into the weekly menu. Over the last 75 weeks, the kids have sampled fresh, seasonal vegetables while we discuss the value of eating good food. As the taste buds change, we are finally at a place where the staff and most especially the kids from 2 years-old to 16 years-old will eat real food! Now I need to get Tessemae’s clean dressing in bulk for these kids!
Yet, as I watch food go into the trash and each kid not eat every bite, I stare at their precious faces. I remember what they are accustomed to eating and what emotional trauma they deal with every day inside their minds. Instead of getting on to them, a smile runs across my face in appreciation for what is happening. May I always remember that giving unconditional love is the greatest gift they receive. And that this nutrient-dense food, if only a bite, is progress.
With perseverance comes change and that brings hope for more change to occur. As we continue the climb up this mountain, may we find the power to encourage one another with kindness and grace and certainly good real food.