The annual Nestlé Cares Day of Service allows employees from offices and factory locations across the country to volunteer in their local communities. On August 2, volunteers from Nestlé Health Science participated in their third annual day of service and treated preschoolers at the Culture of Health Academy (CHA) at Rutgers to a day of learning and fun.
The CHA operates as a partnership between the Center for Childhood Nutrition Education and Research (CCNER) and the Rutgers Psychology Child Development Center, and is located at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH) on the George H. Cook Campus. It is a focal point of the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative, a program recently launched to achieve health equity for all children. David Krol is the medical director for both the IFNH and the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative.
“The volunteer day was a great example of the potential for collaboration between the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative and Nestlé,” said Krol. “Nestlé was interested and excited about the work we’re planning and wanted to be connected in some way.”
Dolores Oreskovich, head of Consumer Sensory Insights at the Nestlé Product Technology Center and a co-leader of the group outing to CHA, explained the relationship between Nestlé’s service mission and the preschool.
“This year we were dedicated to healthy eating and nutrition-based programs that could really help our community and supporting the Culture of Health Academy fit this objective perfectly.”
Nestlé staff members from the Bridgewater, New Jersey office stepped away from their usual finance, research & development, logistics and manufacturing tasks to make crafts and play fruits and veggies bingo in the CHA classrooms. Students were introduced to the concept of “Eating the Rainbow,” as the Nestlé crew passed around colorful foods such as zucchini, purple cauliflower and radishes.
Distinguishing between different types of potatoes and feeling the bumps on the outside of an avocado were new experiences for some of the preschoolers.
The Nestlé team “learned how important it is to engage the kids, so that they can be active participants in the learning process,” said Oreskovich. “Having them identify, touch and hold the different items helped to reinforce their learning.”
After a beginners’ yoga session, led by a Nestlé employee, healthy snacks of rice cakes and hummus were customized with fruit and vegetable smiley faces. One child remarked that she had never eaten a rice cake before.
“The children enjoyed the many activities that Nestlé brought to the Culture of Health Academy and the staff were very pleased to see the children engage in new lessons that made the day special for them,” said Daniel Hoffman, director of the CCNER. “By hosting the volunteers from Nestlé Cares, the IFNH expands its community and creates new opportunities for mutually beneficial programs.”
In addition to teaming up with the preschool classes, Nestlé escorted members of the Scarlet KIDS summer camp on a tour of the IFNH Center for Health and Human Performance. These school-aged campers engaged in a discussion of calories in food, and took thermometer and calorimeter measurements.
Executive Director of the Rutgers Psychology Child Development Center Jennifer Manuola, who oversees both the CHA and the Scarlet KIDS camp, believes that “Collaborating with community partners who are engaged in nutrition-focused research develops a pipeline for sharing research-based science to early childhood educators.”
“This data can be used to build the foundation of healthy and active lifestyles for the youngest learners in our state,” she added.
Krol summed up the volunteer opportunity in this way. “I look forward to a future of many more collaborations with our friends at Nestlé.”