WIC Educators take boring and bland to tasty, kid-friendly meals

December 18, 2020

The WIC food list – while nutritious – may present a meal preparation challenge for new moms and their children. WIC is a supplemental food assistance program for women, infants and children under age 5. Parents have access to a defined list that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables; protein – such as eggs, dried beans, peanut butter and tofu; and calcium – such as milk and cheese. While the food is nutritionally balanced, moms might struggle to make meals palatable and attractive to their children. That’s where the Food Bank of Delaware’s WIC Educators step in . . .  even during a pandemic.

WIC Education teaches eligible pregnant women and families with children under the age of 5 how they can prepare nutritious easy meals using the foods from their food vouchers. Last year, 107 cooking demonstrations were conducted in WIC clinics for 822 individuals and 109 community demonstrations, and nutrition education classes were conducted for 747 individuals. WIC Outreach program aims to increase retention rate of WIC-eligible children and provides community awareness.

Thanks to Zoom, WIC education classes previously held live, or face-to-face, and included tasty samples plus opportunities to share not only recipes, but also a cooking demonstration, are now held virtually. Last week, Alisha, one of the Food Bank’s WIC educators, visited – thanks to technology – New Directions Early Childhood Center in Newark, to show moms how being a little creative with bland foods, such as chickpeas and oatmeal, can transform these foods from boring to yummy with the proper preparation. The class was translated into Spanish as well.

As a bonus, Alisha said making Cereal Bits and Chocolate Pancakes (pictured) offers an opportunity to get a child safely involved – hands on – in certain steps of food preparation. “It’s a great opportunity for kids,” she said.

The Cereal Bites, a nutritious no-cook treat, requires that the cereal, Cheerios ®, be crushed; Alisha suggested using the bottom of jar or mug to crush them, as she shifted her camera angle to the mixing bowl. The recipe also includes dry (powdered) milk, dried cherries, peanut butter, and a little syrup mixed together. “Kids can help pour and stir,” she said.

The mixture is shaped into small bite-sized ball shapes and refrigerated. “It’s pretty messy, but it’s fun. You can sprinkle with cinnamon. Keep them in the fridge, chilled. It’s nice and easy for the most part.”

The demo also featured another kid-friendly recipe, Chocolate Chickpea Pancakes. Canned chickpeas are a frequently donated item, and therefore they are often included in food boxes for clients. Although they contain beneficial protein, fiber, and folate – needed by pregnant women and breastfeeding moms, chickpeas may seem unappealing. Alisha demonstrated how the chickpeas make a great foundation for easy and tasty pancakes: she drained them then pureed them in a blender with two eggs. By adding other ingredients, such as brown sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and baking powder. Chocolate chips are optional. All the non-WIC ingredients are available at a dollar store, Alisha said.

As her electric skillet warmed, she told her virtual audience that she had tried making the pancakes with black beans, but the chickpeas’ blandness made them a better choice.

Scooping the batter into the sizzling pan, she noted that this batter doesn’t bubble the way typical flour-based pancake batter does. “I encourage everyone to try them,” she said.

For families who need supplemental food – in addition to WIC – Alisha explained that food boxes are available through the Food Bank of Delaware by visiting the Healthy Pantry Centers in Newark and Milford. Click here to learn more about the Healthy Pantry Centers. For more information about WIC, please click here.

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