Apr 8, 2019

It’s one thing to teach kids about healthy eating, but it’s a whole other thing to actually show them what that means. But that hands-on, talk-the-talk learning is what NSTEP is doing in Calgary.

NSTEP stands for Nutrition, Students, Teachers, Exercising with Parents and the Calgary-based organization is giving children the skills and knowledge they need to make good food choices, while still making it fun. Calgary Co-op is a proud supporter of the program.

“We believe activity, plus healthy food, water and sleep equals better brains and bodies so children are more successful in school,” explains Deb Hymers, founder of NSTEP. “We are teaching food literacy skills, and food preparation skills to students in grade four and higher. When the kids learn how to peel a carrot or use a knife safely, then they can take that information home and demonstrate it to their parents and also explain why this is important for them all to be eating more vegetables and fruit.”

NSTEPNSTEP operates in Calgary-area schools and uses staff rooms and available space to teach kids about making healthy snacks. They’re shown an easy recipe, and then they help in preparing the snacks, and share it with their classmates.

“We call those snack attacks. Student leaders from upper level classes, will make things like coleslaw, or veggies and yogurt dip, then go and teach their class, who then go and share their knowledge with their little buddies in the younger grades. This fosters a positive learning environment and student leadership within the school community,” says Hymers.

Calgary Co-op has been a partner almost from the beginning and donates funds to support NSTEP initiatives. Hymers says the support is invaluable.

“We're a registered charity, so we don't get any government funding. Co-op gives us gift cards and we can stretch those really far. We’ll use them to buy things like whole grain Cheerios, raisins, and coconut to make snack bags. Just simple snacks that the school has on hand when kids are hungry. Because when kids are hungry, that's when behaviour issues arise. You can't learn if you're hungry and then, more importantly, if you're eating unhealthy food, you're not building your brain. Co-op has been a wonderful partner and has a deep understanding of what we're trying to do and they're local-focused.” 

“We know how important good food is to growing minds,” says Penney McTaggart-Cowan, Vice president of Marketing and Member Experiences at Calgary Co-op. “Food is fuel for the brain and we’re happy to work with NSTEP to get this valuable community resource to as many Calgary kids as we can.”

The NSTEP program has been so successful in Calgary it is expanding right across Canada. 

“I was a teacher for 27 years, but in 2002 when the World Health Organization stated this is the first generation of children that will die before their parents due to preventable nutritional diseases, I decided I could do something. So, I took a leave of absence from my job at the time and started NSTEP.” 

Since January 2010, NSTEP has reached over forty thousand children and youth in twelve school districts across three provinces, and Hymers has no intention of slowing down.

“I love what I do and just to be able to see this positive change happening with kids and then to hear the good influence it’s having in their homes keeps me going.”

To learn more about NSTEP, visit their website at NSTEP.ca



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