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Health and Nutrition Programs

Chefs for Kids

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) collaborated with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Chefs of Las Vegas to develop nutrition education curricula that promote health practices engendering lifelong, healthy lifestyles in children. These practices can lower risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases. Chefs for Kids is an in-school nutrition education program for primary grade children in at-risk elementary schools in Clark and Washoe counties in Nevada. The program consists of two parts: an intensive, second-grade curriculum (Choose Well, Be Well) and a video curriculum (Adventures with Chefs for Kids) aimed at first-graders. The first-grade curriculum introduces the food groups to children and focuses on food for strength, growth, health and energy. The weekly second-grade program helps children choose foods that will give the greatest benefit to their bodies, as well as on physical activity and food safety practices.


Childhood and adolescence are the critical periods for development of good health practices. Many health behaviors established in childhood persist into adulthood. Because many chronic diseases are attributable to poor diet, physical inactivity and weight, it is essential to start good health practices as early as possible. Proper nutrition is essential to a child’s physical, mental and cognitive development.

Although strong programs to build healthful eating and physical activity practices reduce the burden of chronic disease, there are very few programs teaching nutrition practices to children. Chefs for Kids fills this gap, teaching first- and second-grade students the basic skills needed to make these healthful choices.

Individuals (including children) from lower socio-economic status are more likely to be obese or overweight than those of higher socio-economic status. As a group, Mexican American boys tend to have a higher incidence of overweight than non-Hispanic white or non-Hispanic black boys; and non-Hispanic black girls tend to have a higher prevalence of overweight than Mexican American or non-Hispanic white girls. Nevada consistently ranks among those states with the poorest self-reported eating and activity practices.

What Has Been Done:

Every week, Chefs for Kids educators teach children about healthy food combinations, choosing foods that provide the greatest benefit to their bodies, and the importance of physical activity. The curriculum reflects the essential experiences necessary for first- and second-graders as outlined in the standards of the Nevada Department of Education. The curriculum integrates several disciplines into the nutrition lessons, including mathematics, reading, physical education and art. Chefs for Kids ensures that children receive instruction in healthful nutrition practices based on the most current research. Monthly challenges, topical newsletters and monthly wellness calendars, written in both English and Spanish, are given to families to expand instruction into the home.

Chefs for Kids’ volunteers donate more than 3,000 hours yearly to prepare breakfasts for the children and raise funds to support the program. The Chefs for Kids program has reached more than 32,500 students since its inception 20 years ago. The second-grade program is offered in 12 schools in Clark County and four schools in Washoe County. The first-grade program was taught in 22 different schools reaching 2,505 students. The program reached 216 teachers (77 in the second grade and 139 in first grade).


In the second-grade program:

  • More than 83 percent of students demonstrate proper hand washing procedures as taught in the hand-washing lessons.
  • Nearly 93 percent of students in the program are able to list two activities considered part of an active lifestyle according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
  • Eighty-two percent of students in the program are able to identify two foods from each of the five food groups.
  • The program increases number of students who improve their snack food choices from the beginning to the end of the nutrition intervention. In schools where students attended at least 25 program lessons, 24 percent chose three snacks rated as less healthful; following the intervention, only 6 percent chose three snacks rated as less healthful.

In the first-grade program:

  • Of the 2,141 evaluated for food categorization, the average score was 89.8 percent, with 41 percent identifying all foods, 23 percent missed only one food and 13 percent missed two foods.

Chefs for Kids Foundation, ACF Chefs Las Vegas, USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Share Our Strength, Private Donations

Contacts: Susan Lednicky, Program Officer, 702-257-5548,
Madeleine Sigman-Grant, Area Maternal and Child Health Specialist, 702-257-5534,
Cathy Baptista, Community Based Instructor, 702-940-5426,
Veronica Espinoza, Community Based Instructor, 702-257-5566,
Crystal Momii, Community Based Instructor, 702-257-5591,
Debbie Presto, Community Based Instructor, 775-784-4848,
LaShuna Proctor, Community Based Instructor, 702-257-5569,
Sonia Casales, Community Based Instructor, 702-257-5517

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