Teaching proper nutrition, practicing food preparation skills, and engaging in physical activity are ways to promote individual well-being. WeCook: Fun with Food and Fitness (WeCook) is a research-based, evidence-informed OST program that has been shown to be effective for 3rd-5th graders. The program’s long-term goal is to give youth the knowledge and skills needed to engage in healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. This type of programming gives youth the opportunity to improve their well-being, thus, contributing to their quality of life.
This curriculum contains 12 lessons focusing on nutrition, food preparation, and physical activity. Each lesson is split into two 50-minute sessions related to a specific nutrition theme. One session is dedicated to promoting balanced nutrition, based on USDA MyPlate guidelines, and physical activity through high-energy, interactive games. The other session is dedicated to food preparation, with youth preparing snacks in small groups. In addition, there are three optional family events (see Appendix B) where youth can prepare food for themselves and their families during programming. Afterward, they are encouraged to enjoy the food together.
OST programs provide youth opportunities to learn and develop lifelong skills, equipping them for positive physical and mental health during adulthood. In addition, OST is an ideal setting for experiential learning. After participating in WeCook in its entirety, youth have shown significant improvement in their nutrition knowledge based on USDA MyPlate guidelines, increased knowledge of the benefits of eating breakfast, and improvements in choosing healthy snacks. A significant overall increase in daily physical activity among youth participants has been shown. In addition, interviews with a subset of family members (n=14) revealed youth increased their confidence, had positive attitudes toward food preparation, and transferred knowledge from the OST setting to the home environment. These results illustrate the need for educational programs like WeCook that teach hands-on nutrition, food preparation, and physical activity in efforts to improve the overall health and well-being of our nation’s youth.