Roots to Harvest blender bike helps promote healthy eating for nutrition month in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The bike was used to make healthy smoothies at the Boys and Girls Club

Roots to Harvest program coordinator Kim McGibbon brought their blender bike to the Boys and Girls Club in Thunder Bay, Ont. to teach kids the importance of choosing healthy beverages and eating healthy while having fun blending their own smoothies. (Christina Jung / CBC)

The month of March calls for more than just the start of a new season for officials at the organization Roots to Harvest in Thunder Bay, Ont.

With the sun shining a little longer as the temperature warms up to mark the beginning of spring, on Monday evening the team at Roots to Harvest celebrated nutrition month with the students from the local Boys and Girls Club.

“Every year in March we try to do some celebration of nutrition month,” Roots to Harvest program coordinator Kim McGibbon said, “this year we are focusing on kids and the focus right now is sip smart or choosing healthy beverages.”

Dozens of students gathered around a unique piece of equipment at the Boys and Girls club, located on Windsor Street, as they waited their turn to pedal a stationary bike that has been converted to power a blender.

One by one, students at the Boys and Girls Club each got to pedal the stationary blender bike and make their own healthy snacks for nutrition month on Monday, March 19. (Christina Jung / CBC)

Known as the blender bike, McGibbon and the staff at the Boys and Girls club provided healthy ingredients like bananas and strawberries so that students could get a chance to blend their own smoothies while learning about the importance of healthy eating.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to get their heart rate up too,” McGibbon continued, “[and] I think we want them to know that healthy eating can be fun and they can use their body’s energy to create a snack and it gives them the opportunity to learn what a healthy snack can be.”

Teaching kids young

Students at the Boys and Girls club range from as young as four years old to as old as 18, according to program coordinator Laura Donohue, with two cooking programs running weekly.

“We find a lot of the kids, especially the older ones, are prepping snacks at home,” Donohue said, “[so] we try to teach the kids some basic skills here that then they can bring home and make something for themselves at home.”

She said simple presentations like the blender bike have really helped kids understand the topic of healthy eating.

“We do healthy snacks every day after school,” Donohue explained, “so instead of giving them cookies, we give them apple slices and yogurt and we make it fun for them,” by making animal shapes and playing games to make healthy eating something students choose to do themselves.

“I think the kids are more excited when the snacks come out,” Donohue said, “and when we do the cooking programs sometimes we have to tell kids [that] there is not enough space for you.”

Sip smart & eat healthy

With the help of the blender bike, students made healthy smoothies containing whole fruits, milk alternatives and vegetables that many of them would probably have stayed away from, McGibbon explained.

“So we have whole bananas and strawberries and fruit and I think that’s the way that we want our kids to get the calories their bodies need,” McGibbon continued, “[and] with the program we did today, we had kale growing so we put the kale in their smoothies.”

Made with whole bananas, strawberries, kale and yogurt, students each got to blend their own smoothie and taste test it. (Christina Jung / CBC)

She said most kids, even the picky-eaters, are open to trying new foods and vegetables if they have the opportunity to get involved in making food or learning about it.

Which is why for nutrition month, Roots to Harvest along with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit is hoping parents help their children submit a recipe into a national contest called Unlock the Potential Home Cooking Recipe Contest.

Contest details along with the rules and regulations can be found online at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s website.

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