Fresh Vegetables Served by a Partnership
Tastes Budding: Developing Early Food Preferences Sprouts into Action in Kansas City
Good Natured Family Farms
Treat America (Bistro Kids)
Plaza del Niño
Kansas City YMCA
University of Kansas Medical Center
Good Natured Family Farms; Kansas City, Missouri
In this vignette, we see that desires born from the love of family and home can, in turn, create powerful social change. Diana Endicott returned to her Kansas roots in 1995 to open a farm that would sell naturally-raised beef and produce to local groceries. In 1995, this was a relatively novel idea. Diana and her husband started small, but within a short time, their productivity outpaced the market, and they found they had to create greater demand. They partnered with a local grocery chain to raise awareness about natural food, and launched Good Natured Family Farms, a cooperative of 150 family-run farms that sell all natural meats, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products in the Kansas-Missouri region.
Meanwhile, in Kansas City, mother and professional chef Kiersten Firquain eyed the lunches being served at her son’s school and realized they were nothing more than junk food. She began packing his lunches. As a child, she and her classmates had benefited from wholesome meals cooked from scratch at school. Firquain realized her son’s generation was not only becoming habituated to junk food through school meals, it wasn’t learning about healthy food and lifestyles. Her commitment to freshly cooked food, and her concern for the health of her son and the other children in his school inspired Firquain to form Bistro Kids. Bistro Kids would offer farm to school-inspired meals, cooking classes for children, technical support in creating on-site gardens, and farmer visits.
When Firquain and Endicott met, they decided to combine their strengths. Motivated to introduce healthy food at an age where children are developing their taste preferences, and wondering if their shared interests could benefit more vulnerable children, Firquain and Endicott partnered with a Head Start site on the west side of Kansas City, Plaza del Niño, at the Guadalupe Center. Even before their small pilot program concluded, Firquain and Endicott’s work attracted like-minded actors across Kansas. By 2011, their humble beginnings grew into a partnership with the YMCA, Sysco KC, the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Treat America, a large family-owned food service company that acquired Bistro Kids when it was no longer single-handedly able to meet demand.
The first year of this expanded collaboration was focused on listening to communities, assessing needs, and using the enhanced capacity of Treat America to plan logistics and roll-out. The University of Kansas would track and evaluate the impact of the farm to ECE initiative. The activities of the program would take place at YMCA sites with Head Start centers and the activities would include introducing fresh foods through familiar recipes to children, on-site gardens, and Farm Tables placed in common spaces and displaying recipes, information, and free produce for families. Certified chef instructors were employed to conduct sensory and experiential cooking classes where children cooked with their peers. Eventually, parents started to request cooking classes, too.
A unique aspect of the collaboration was the rigorous evaluation conducted by University of Kansas Medical Center. The University measured the actual difference in micro- and macro-nutrient intake by children through a nutrient tracking system. Children’s intake of overall fat, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars all decreased, and important vitamin and mineral intake increased.