Living in a society where fast food and pre-made meals have become normal components of one’s diet, it is understandable how nutritional lessons can fall by the wayside. Stacey Antine has found a way to educate children on the values of good nutrition in a fun engaging environment and is bringing that program, known as HealthBarn USA, to Yorktown’s Hilltop Hanover Farm this summer.
A registered dietician, Antine started HealthBarn six years ago after noticing that overweight children were being clinically treated as if they had a disease.
“I knew there was a better way to do this than to have a kid step on a scale and ask them how many cups of rice they ate, but that was the protocol,” she recalled. “These kids were being treated like they had diabetes or they have a disease and really it is about education.”
HealthBarn was born when Antine realized that if nutrition was taught in a thought-provoking, hands-on, entertaining manner change can happen.
For the past six years HealthBarn has been teaching children at Abma’s farm in Wyckoff, NJ. The camp has been so successful that it was rated by the Bergen-based magazine (201) as the voters’ choice and editor’s choice for best camp. Additionally Antine and the HealthBarn program have been featured on the “Rachael Ray Show”, “Fox New York Good Day”, and “CNN with Dr. Sanjay Gupta”.
“People are looking for opportunities for their kids to learn about nutrition and there aren’t that many,” Antine stated.
Now Antine has developed a partnership with Hilltop Hanover to bring the HealthBarn experience to Westchester.
“The partnership with Hilltop is perfect. They like the fact that we have integrated the farm concept with the nutrition and the cooking. It is the complete farm-to-fork food experience,” she said.
Rick Fisher, vice president of programming at the farm, agrees. “The HealthBarn USA summer camp is a welcome addition to our programming at Hilltop Hanover Farm,” he commented. “Children will have the opportunity to experience life on the farm, participating in all aspects of the food cycle; from the greenhouse, composting, harvesting, to cooking and food preparation. Campers will hike our trails, explore our habitats, and enjoy art/music experiences with an environmental theme. We are proud to help prepare the next generation of farmers.”
During the weekly camp sessions, which run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, the children will be cooking their own breakfast, lunch and snack from produce harvested from the farm. The campers, ages 5-12, will also spend time planting seedlings, creating environmentally safe projects such as a solar over; exercising by hiking the trails down to the lake and learning about nutrition and environmental conservation.
“The foundation of what we do is the nutrition healthy lifestyle piece,” Antine noted. “We just use the farming, the exercise, the hiking and the cooking to engage the kids in the whole experience.”
Campers have so much fun they cannot wait to come back for more. Antine recounted how many parents have expressed their surprise as to how much their children have loved the program. “The kids aren’t even aware of the educational component because they are having so much fun,” she said.
Each week-long session has a different theme and on Fridays parents and siblings are invited to the big finale where the campers can show off their new skills.
The camp is limited to a maximum of 25 children per week. Applications to the camp are available online at healthbarnusa.com.