Most parents know how important it is to teach their children to eat healthy. But access to wholesome and nourishing options, especially from a typical kids’ menu, can derail that mission in a flash.
The most popular “kid-friendly” items tend to have one thing in common—they’re all beige in color. French fries, chicken tenders, grilled cheese and buttered pasta have well-earned places on club menus.
But a more colorful selection, flush with fruits and vegetables and balanced with those long-time beige favorites, can encourage more healthful eating and provide more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that little members need, so they’ll be able to grow up into big members.
“Kids are way more receptive to fruits and vegetables than many of us give them credit for,” says Jamie Bostian, Executive Chef of Peninsula Yacht Club (PYC) in Cornelius, N.C.. “We need to offer them more than beige food, and teach them what it means to eat a balanced diet.”
Over the past year, Bostian and his team have revamped all kids’ menus at PYC to now feature a wider and more colorful variety of foods, such as salmon, watermelon, carrot sticks and broccoli. They even offer customizable bento boxes that feature three healthy sides and one main protein, such as chicken or salmon.
To encourage kids to order and eat the new items, Bostian took a page from the “5 A Day the Color Way” program of the American Culinary Federation, to create “PYC Kids.” The club-specific program leverages Bostian and his team’s creativity and culinary expertise, to encourage PYC’s youngest generation to make more colorful dining choices with a simple reward-based system.
Here’s how it works: Each child that enrolls in PYC Kids gets a complimentary passport. Every time that child orders and consumes a colorful dish or item at the club, he or she earns a stamp in the passport. Once the child earns enough stamps (15, 30, 40, 50, 100, 150 or 200), he or she can cash in the stamps for a prize.
The program includes colorful, recognizable characters that serve as visual cues on PYC’s children’s menu, as well as on buffets, during activities and at the club’s summer camps. The characters include Claudia Cauliflower, Tommy Tomato, Bradley Blueberry, Bobby Broccoli and Oscar Orange.
“Kids don’t have to be able to read to recognize the characters,” says Bostian. “We also use colorful font colors on our menus to indicate more healthful choices.”
The kids are responsible for their passports, and the club even has the children sign a “contract,” so they understand that the care and keeping of their passport is their responsibility.
“We don’t charge members anything to be a part of the program, but if we don’t make keeping track the child’s responsibility, we’d bury ourselves in lost passports,” says Bostian.
So far, PYC Kids has 90 members—but the club hopes to grow that number to 250 this year, through a promotion tied to the 250th anniversary of nearby Charlotte, N.C.. If that goal is reached, the club will host a 5 a Day the Color Way party to celebrate the achievement.
“It’s all about education,” says Bostian, who partners with nearby farms to get fresh fruits and veggies, and local vendors to collect the prizes for the kids.
“There were minimal startup costs that the club incurred, but the impact and appreciation from the members has been profound,” he says. “It’s changing the culture of the club, and we’re now getting more support to do other food-related initiatives, like expanding our garden, reducing waste and bringing in ‘ugly food.’”
The Goal: Jamie Bostian, Executive Chef of Peninsula Yacht Club (PYC), wanted to improve the kids dining program at the club and offer more healthful choices that they would actually choose to order.
The Plan: As an active member of his local ACF chapter, Bostian decided to replicate a program local schools use called “5 A Day the Color Way.” Complete with colorful characters, the program motivates kids to choose more colorful foods in exchange for stamps in their “PYC Passport.” When a child earns enough stamps, they can be exchanged for a variety of prizes.
The Payoff: Ninety children have already joined PYC’s Kids healthy eating program—and more join daily. Children are also advocating to dine at the club more often—and when there, they are choosing more nutritious options.