Beech Grove Schools dietician wins national nutrition competition

By Nancy Price

A Southside dietician has been teaching schoolchildren that healthy eating can be tasty and fun to prepare.

Tarrah McCreary, a contractor through Chartwells, works with Beech Grove City Schools. She recently won first place (out of 130 participants) at the national Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo for a technology-based nutrition education program called “Pirate Treasure.” The program increased summer meal participation by nearly 20 percent.

“Pirate Treasure was created for our summer food service program to teach kids about nutrition and their families if they were to come with them,” McCreary said. “It’s meant to engage them in eating healthier food.”

Tarrah McCreary is a dietician who works with students at Beech Grove City Schools. (Submitted photos)

Students completed online surveys that asked questions about their knowledge of nutrition, including basic food groups and caloric intake.

“Those questions went a long way with choosing foods for a menu,” she said. “It gets their thinking caps on during summer when they’re usually taking a nap (instead).”

The feedback from the surveys indicated that survey participants were satisfied with the program, according to McCreary.

“One hundred percent of the participants felt they enjoyed the program and that’s what gave them the desire to come back during (future) summer programs,” she said.

Another ongoing program, Discovery Kitchen, engages students in learning to cook and explore different foods during the schoolyear.

“Kids are able to try and learn new things,” McCreary said. As an example, students once helped to prepare spaghetti squash. “They’d never seen that and didn’t know what it was. They thought it was weird looking. They tried a simple recipe and had a fun time trying it. Now they think it’s the best thing ever. Some students even liked the squash without the spaghetti sauce.”

McCreary won first place (out of 130 participants) at the national Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo for “Pirate Treasure.”

Students also have participated in a community farmer’s market that may become annual, McCreary said. Participating in the farmer’s market helps students to learn about various seasonal vegetables and try recipes using those vegetables.

“They can take the recipe home and know how to use it. It’s fun to see them explore and learn there are more foods out there than just potatoes,” she said.

The emphasis on nutrition is not limited to learning about healthy food. Students are taught about how nutrition helps their bodies to function well. While breakfast is typically a staple among children in grade school, once most kids reach middle school, they have tendencies to skip breakfast, McCreary noted.

“We talk about protein and how to get vitamins and minerals to start your day right,” she said.

McCreary completed her master’s degree in food and nutrition. “I love working in education and how to make (learning) fun. I think a lot of our kids are taught that we have to eat healthy food; we can make it fun and exciting.”