Common Threads: Cooking Skills and World Cuisine Program

Cooking Skills and World Cuisine (CSWC) is a direct education intervention targeting elementary and middle school aged children designed to increase nutrition knowledge, culinary skills, liking of vegetables, vegetable consumption, and communication about healthy eating between students and families. Each lesson explores a different country’s cuisine and teaches young chefs how to follow a recipe, prepare and cook ingredients, and leave the kitchen as clean as they found it. Students that have completed the Cooking Skills and World Cuisine program are able to cook a balanced healthy meal that includes whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. 

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating 

Intervention Type: Direct Education 

Steps to Health’s Nuts and Bolts of a Healthy Food Pantry

The Nuts and Bolts of a Health Food Pantry Toolkit is a direct education and PSE change intervention that is designed to support pantries in improving the food environment so their clients can choose healthy food and beverage items. The components of the Toolkit include a resource guide, baseline and follow-up assessments to explore opportunities for PSE, training modules for food pantry staff and volunteers, action planning tools for sustaining PSE changes, and promotional materials, such as signage and “nudge” cards to influence healthy choices. The Toolkit equips partners to share best practices when collaborating with food pantries.  

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance  

Intervention Type: Direct Education, PSE Change 

PowerUp Your School

PowerUp Your School (PowerUp) is an evidence-based physical activity program aligned with academic standards and social-emotional learning skills. As a direct education program, PowerUp helps youth meet national physical activity guidelines by engaging K-8th grade participants in 30 minutes of physical activity, a minimum of two times per week, in before and after school settings. Every PowerUp lesson is aligned with national Math and English Language Arts academic standards to engage students in active learning. Designed to minimize barriers to physical activity, PowerUp does not require any equipment and can be successfully implemented in a variety of spaces including gymnasiums, cafeterias, classrooms, hallways, common spaces, or outdoors. 

Target Behavior: Physical Activity and Reduced Screen Time 

Intervention Type: Direct Education

Food Smarts

Food Smarts is a direct education intervention that is designed to support healthy behavior change in the areas of healthy eating, food safety, cooking, food waste reduction and food resource management. In 2022, Leah’s Pantry released an updated version of Food Smarts that incorporates principles of trauma-informed nutrition.  Food Smarts is a flexible, learner-centered, multi-session nutrition and cooking program with several available lesson plans to fit the needs of a variety of settings. A kitchen is not required for the implementation of the intervention, but participants can be engaged in simple recipe preparation as an instructional strategy. The adult curriculum of Food Smarts is available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. The youth curriculum is available in English.  

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating  
Intervention Type: Direct Education 

FoodCorps Healthy School Toolkit

The FoodCorps Healthy School Toolkit is a PSE change intervention designed to improve school food environments over time. The Toolkit includes a research-backed assessment tool that is used by school teams to assess healthy school food environment activities. The Toolkit also includes the Action Plan, a tool that guides school teams in setting goals and vision to improve school food environments. The Healthy School Progress Report was developed through an evaluation partnership with Columbia Universitys Teachers College. It assesses the school food environment across sixteen indicator areas known to contribute to healthy eating behaviors in children, spanning hands-on nutrition education, school gardening, and food preparation experience to the culture of healthy eating in the cafeteria and throughout the schools practices. It is expected that schools actively using these tools and seeking to implement activities that support a healthy school food environment will make incremental progress on an annual basis.   

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating  
Intervention Type: PSE Change 

Veggie Van (VV) Toolkit

The Veggie Van (VV) Toolkit is a policy, systems, and environmental change intervention designed to:

  • Increase access to healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables in lower income and/or food insecure communities
  • Help the target population improve their diets through skill building
  • Address the interplay between the physical food environment, individual perceptions of that environment, and self-efficacy
  • Address multiple dimensions of access to fresh produce for lower-income and under-served communities, including availability, affordability, accessibility (geographic and financial), and accommodation
  • Improve self-efficacy for finding, purchasing, and preparing fruits and vegetables or other healthy foods via cooking and nutrition education interventions

VV achieves these goals via mobile farmers markets that present cooking demonstrations, recipes, taste tests, and nutrition education to help customers better use the produce they receive. VV mobile markets also accept SNAP benefits, electronic benefits (EBT), and other relevant local food incentive and benefit programs, as well as employ a bundling model in addition to a la carte purchasing. The bundling model allows the VV mobile markets to sell more items at a lower cost and expose participants to a greater variety of fruits and vegetables. Markets operate a minimum of 10 months out of the year and typically source produce locally or regionally.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Food Insecurity/Food Assistance

Intervention Type: PSE Change

Healthy for Life Community Nutrition Program (HFL)

The Healthy for Life (HFL) Community Nutrition Program is direct education designed to change relationships with food and nutrition by inspiring individuals and families to make healthy food choices part of their everyday lives. It was designed from the community engagement model, emphasizing participants’ contribution in refining the program and program resources follow the 4-A format (Anchor, Add, Apply and Away). Also, community fit was ensured through the consideration of existing programs along with the target population and facilitator capabilities. Program material was designed to be culturally relevant and facilitators should connect and establish a reciprocal sense of trust and respect among participants. The materials are flexible and can accommodate individuals with time constraints, limited budgets, and minimal nutrition knowledge. The program aims to improve participant confidence and attitudes to sustain healthy behavior change. The recommendation is to offer at least four educational experiences, over 2-3 months to equips individuals with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to discover, choose, and prepare healthy food. Through facilitated food discovery experiences, participants will build food literacy to improve their health. 

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating  
Intervention Type: Direct Education 

SNAP-Ed Soccer for Success (SfS)

Soccer for Success (SfS) is a direct education intervention designed to improve fitness levels of participants, improve nutritional knowledge and behavior of participants (and their families), and improve youth development outcomes of participants. SfS helps kids establish healthy habits and develop critical life skills through trained coach-mentors. Our multifaceted model combines structured physical activity, nutritional education, family engagement resources, and coach-mentoring best practices. The nutrition component meets USDA standards. SfS lessons are taught 3 times a week for 12 or 24 weeks by trained coach-mentors. SfS’ curriculum provides coach-mentors with tools to integrate nutrition lessons into fun activities. As a result, children are constantly engaged and challenged to incrementally increase both their level of physical activity and their understanding of healthy lifestyles. To further address the social determinants of health, we use SfS as a hub for wrap-around health services. The SfS model incorporates community engagement days, featuring health resources from local community-based organization partners.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Reducing Screen Time

Intervention Type: Direct Education

Illinois Junior Chefs

Illinois Junior Chefs (IJC) is a direct education curriculum designed to improve dietary attitudes and behaviors in youth ages 8-13 through learning hands-on cooking skills and MyPlate food group education. IJC is a 10-hour cooking education program designed for five two-hour classes. Each class focuses on a food group and related cooking skills. Recipes provided let participants practice specific cooking skills for preparation of foods for the food group highlighted in each lesson. A variety of recipes are included in the curriculum as well as additional resource links for supplemental recipes. Recipe selection should be based on age-appropriate cooking tasks for the participants and culturally appropriate recipes for diverse audiences. Participants are recruited through eligible schools and community agencies. Eligible participants attend IJC classes at sites having access to running water and electricity for the purpose of hand washing, food safety, and preparing recipes that need cooking.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Other: Cooking Skills

Intervention Type: Direct Education

Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do It! (MEND)

Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do it! (MEND) program is a direct education intervention designed to manage overweight, obesity in children 2-13 years old and their families by improving health, fitness, and self-esteem. The MEND programs combine physical activity, healthy eating, and behavior change to facilitate safe, effective weight management and lasting changes in lifestyle. Programs run for 10 weeks and the child and at least one parent or primary caregiver must attend. MEND programs help families in the following areas: 

● Mind – improving children’s self-esteem and supporting families to change their behaviors around eating and activity 

● Exercise – engaging in regular physical activity that is fun 

● Nutrition – learning about good nutrition and healthy eating 

● Do it! – taking action to make healthy lifestyle changes long term 

The newest program, Healthy Together, for children ages 6–13 years and their families, is based on MEND 7-13 but with simplified delivery and focus on critical content. Healthy Together can be delivered by one person and is ideal for smaller groups and spaces. 

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Reducing Screen Time 

Intervention Type: Direct Education