When I was in Atlanta last month, I met Leslie Grant, president and mother hen of Chickin Feed, LLC. Leslie and her Chickin Feed staff have created a line of colorful, fun teaching tools that help kids learn about nutritious foods and helps them track the foods they eat.
With tools like the Track’n PlaceMat — a laminated placemat that allows kids to track the healthy foods they’ve eaten during the day to make sure they’re getting all the nutrition they need — and the Farm Grub cloth book — which introduces little ones to the Farm Crub characters and food vocabulary — children can get an early education in good nutrition. I wish I'd had tools like this when my boys were little.
Leslie took the time to answer some questions about Chickin Feed, and she also gave me her thoughts on the USDA’s new MyPlate icon.
What is Chickin Feed? What sort of help for teaching children to eat well do you offer?
Leslie Grant: Chickin Feed is all about raising healthy children (affectionately called "chickins"). If you've ever had a bunch of little ones running around the yard, you'll get the reference right away. For the past four years, we've been designing unique visual and audible learning tools for children and their families to build healthy habits in their coop.
What was your inspiration for creating Chickin Feed?
I was inspired to create Chickin Feed after being very uninspired with the bad eating habits I was passing along to my children. The fact that my mom passed away when my daughter was two and a half was also a factor in it. She never got to meet my son, and it still makes me very, very sad. I wanted to make sure that I was doing the best I could to be healthy for my future grandchildren (can't wait to pinch their cheeks!) and that my children have a solid nutritional foundation and don't have to battle with obesity and very preventable diseases in their adulthood.
Do people ever share their success stories of how Chickin Feed has helped them? Got any good ones to share with us?
Yes! We get lots of great stories from folks. One of my favorite is from a 4-year-old that was inspired to eat his beets AND the greens on top. He wanted his mom to "tell Farmer Goat" about it so that Farmer Goat would be proud of him. (NOTE: This little boy is the son of our "chirpin' chick" Katherine, and he read a preview copy of one of our books about Farmer Goat's special love affair with beets.)
I heard just the other day from a mom that bought one of our Nutrition Tracking Board (the predecessor to our Track'n PlaceMat) a few years ago. She said it no longer sits out in the kitchen, but her daughter will find it and move the little chickins over to represent how well she ate and then come show her mom!
And this is another one posted on our website: "My two-year old LOVES your CD! Especially the duckie song. He moves his hands like he’s conducting an orchestra. It is sooo funny! Thank you for making such a fun family CD. I find myself singing it sometimes because we listen to it so often.” – Brandi S. Atlanta, GA
For people unfamiliar with Chickin Feed and all it has to offer, what one item would you suggest a parent start with to get their child on the way to eating properly?
I think our Track'n PlaceMat is fantastic. It has several different ways of teaching both the chickins and their parents about eating healthy and can serve as both a passive and active learning tool. And the FARM GRUB revue CD (pictured at right) is pretty terrific, too. Kids learn about the Snackcake Blues you can get from eating too many cupcakes!
What's next for Chicken Feed?
I'd love to get moving on a series of books featuring the FARM GRUB critters. They are so much fun and work along with the CD beautifully.
Have you had a chance to look at the USDA's new MyPlate icon and nutrition recommendations? What are your thoughts?
YES, of course I've checked out MyPlate. I think about 20 folks sent me links on the day it was published. My brother thought they had ripped off Chickin Feed and suggested I might want to consider suing the U.S. government, but that's not the first time he's wanted an excuse to sue the Feds.
Anyway, I think the new MyPlate goes a long way to making the idea about nutrition a more understandable concept. I think the food pyramid was a little too abstract, and I like how they've wrestled it all down to a plate that actually is something you associate with eating. I still think the Track'n PlaceMat gets to the point a little more directly with better "sticking" power since it is interactive (kids check off their requirements as they go), but I'm probably a little biased.
I'm just glad we are all paying more attention to what we are eating these days. We need as many folks as we can get throwing their ideas into the ring. Michelle Obama bringing the whole thing front and center has been an amazing gift to our country. And if you haven't seen it yet, Whole Foods has a great system that rates the overall quality of foods that is brilliant called the ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index)! Bottom line is that great ideas today will build a much healthier future for the chickins of tomorrow!
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