What it means to “Nurture”

What It Means To “Nurture”

Thu 08 Aug 2013

Story by Kathryn Guylay

While volunteering at a food pantry in Metro Chicago in 2008, I became disenchanted with the quality of foodstuffs being handed out to families in need.

Why are most of the foods given away to families in need processed and nutritionally inferior?

What are the effects of this sub-optimal diet (which is neither nourishing nor nurturing) on both the adults and the kids of these families?

Why do we assume that families in need won’t take the time to cook fresh, whole foods instead of processed foods?

What can we do to change this dynamic?

Nurturing our Communities

In pondering these questions, I learned how important it is to Nurture our communities. In partnership with the food pantry and some amazing volunteers (including experts in cooking and nutrition), we started offering entire-family cooking classes based on whole foods like whole grains, beans, lentils and fresh fruits and veggies that could optimize families’ nutrition. NURTURE was born as an acronym: “Nutritional Upgrading Realized through Underwriting, Resources and Education”. Our pilot program received huge accolades from partners and participants alike, and “Nurture” was born as a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the nutrition and health of families in need.

As the Founder of this new organization, I saw my role shift dramatically in the first few years from a part-time volunteer to a full-time (still volunteer) Executive Director. I quickly saw the need to shift my focus from just the teaching and hands-on element of our work (which I still love) in order to Nurture our organization. Between 2008 and 2011, we spent countless hours documenting our successful approach and creating a scripted curriculum so that anyone could replicate our work. Our goal has always been to spread the word as broadly as possible, without trying to profit it. I became a steward of our organization and its people, curriculum and other assets, including an extensive recipe collection for adults, kids and our gardening program.

Food and Fun

From a grassroots history focused on work with social services agencies and food pantries, a new avenue started to emerge for Nurture in 2010. Thanks to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA) and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, the key role that our schools play in the health and wellness of children became extremely apparent to the broader public. At the same time, Nurture’s curriculum for kids, made highly visible thanks to media coverage from Chicago Parent, the Chicago Tribune and others, put Nurture’s school-based curriculum in the limelight. Even as I made a major geographic change in my life (leaving the Chicago area to settle near Sun Valley, Idaho), I dove right into my community in order to Nurture our schools. In Sun Valley, the kids refer to the curriculum fondly as “Food and Fun”.

As Nurture’s presence in schools, through both the Nurture Idaho and Nurture Illinois chapters, has grown, we have not lost touch with our family-based background. We know that we must ultimately Nurture the parent-child connection. That is why each Nurture lesson has a take-home component in the form of a parent newsletter and information sheet; and our programs as often as possible still contain an opportunity to meet with adults in person in a cooking class setting.

Today, I borrow language from the venerable Dr. David Katz to describe Nurture as “another important sandbag in the levy against the tide/epidemic of childhood obesity”. I don’t kid myself that we are solving this problem through our program alone. I think the “many sandbags” metaphor is helpful in painting the picture of how a multitude of programs and policies can and should align to improve nutrition and health for our nation’s youth.

Nurturing our Nation

To me, therefore, the meaning of Nurture has expanded to Nurture our Nation, recognizing that we are all threads that can ultimately weave together to build a stronger and healthier fabric. Each one of us can play a key role in Nurturing one’s community, Nurturing one’s organization, and Nurturing one’s school; and through the important parent-child connection, we can Nurture our entire nation. Together, we can unite to Nurture each other.

Nurture’s curriculum is available for free, but you must contact our Director of Operations, Stacy Whitman, for a password so we can track your success in nurturing your community.

To learn more about Nurture, visit our website or our Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/NurtureIdaho and www.facebook.com/nurtureyourfamily.

About the author: Kathryn Guylay is the Founder and Executive Director for Nurture, which includes chapters in both Idaho and Illinois. A mom herself, she is passionate about nutrition education for children and families. She is an active volunteer for Chef’s Move to Schools, an ambassador for the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution, a PreventObesity.net leader, and a Community Hero for the Edible Schoolyard Project. She holds a Masters degree in Business Administration and a Certification in Nutritional Counseling. She is also the creator of the website and blog Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange, which has been a source of recipes and inspiration for parents since 2008.


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