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Variety and Consistency are the Pillars to CentroNía’s “Eat Healthy, Live Healthy" Program

Children living in Washington, D.C., and across the country spend a large part of their day in school and rely heavily on their educational institutions for nourishment. As educators, it is imperative that we expose children to a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods early on in their development, and CentroNía does just that! We prepare various meals and snacks to support children’s learning thanks to programs such as the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

With more than 260 employees who serve 2,500 children, youth, and families in the District of Columbia and Maryland, CentroNía’s mission is to educate children and youth, and strengthen families in a bilingual, multicultural community. We cook meals and prepare snacks on the premises that incorporate whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, more vegetarian proteins and local produce.  By eliminating processed foods and juices from our institution, we drastically reduced the sugar and sodium on our menus.

A student from DC Bilingual Public Charter School enjoys a taco.

Our menus are creative and have a variety of healthy foods that our children have learned to enjoy. Children love the tofu in their vegetarian chow-mein. We’ve even replaced fish sticks with baked tilapia. We are proud to offer our children five different fresh fruits and vegetables daily and have found that our children's love for local fruits facilitated the elimination of juices from our menus. Likewise, with salad bars, children feel empowered when they are able to serve themselves their own food.

Many teachers and parents expressed skepticism at first of the menu changes and convincing them was our biggest challenge. To the delight and surprise of teachers and parents alike, children have embraced these changes because we consistently offer them healthier food choices. 

As a result, we created the campaign, “Eat Healthy, Live Healthy” and launched innovative basic nutrition workshops with teachers, highlighting the importance of exposing children to a variety of foods.

Our curriculum, called “I Want to be Healthy,” teaches about selecting healthy foods, increasing physical activity, and drinking more water.  We've reached even further, availing ourselves of all opportunities to expose parents to our nutritious meals, inviting them to workshops and cooking demonstrations, and encouraging them to join in our efforts.

Seven years into our program, our hard work has shown great results! Our teachers are now convinced that good foods are essential to each child's success, and they implement this nutrition foundation into the curriculum. In addition, our school nurse reports a decrease in the incidence of children complaining of stomach aches; and parents are telling us that their children are demanding salads at dinnertime.

We are very excited with all of these outcomes and are delighted to be working with partners, such as Let’s Move!, to promote healthy eating habits for children and families across the country.

For more information on supporting healthy choices at school, please visit: