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How Teaching Home Economics Can Benefit both Kids and Senior Neighbors

Apr 17, 2020 ● By Tiffany Hinton

Our current situation with social distancing recommendations and the order to stay at home gives us the opportunity to teach our kids home economics, a subject rarely taught in schools in recent years. As the Huffpost reported, "Home economics teaches children to be savvy consumers. The kids can learn how to read labels and see through empty marketing. They can learn how to budget. They can learn to appreciate real food. Any child or teenager that is confident in the kitchen and has expanded their palate is less likely to become trapped in a life of junk food.” Not only does educating our kids on the topic of home economics benefit their healthy lifestyle, but children can then use the lessons presented to help their elderly neighbors.

Several of us have elderly neighbors. There are 29% of Illinois seniors living alone within our communities. This is 468,856 people over the age of 65. Recently I was speaking with a friend who mentioned she found out her neighbor had not prepared for the order to stay home, issued by the Governor in Illinois and did not have food in the fridge or cabinet for the week. My friend mentioned she was going to drop off a loaf of bread for her neighbor. This prompted my concern, as a health coach. If we just drop off packaged processed foods, the elderly will be lacking the nutritional support needed for their immune system to function optimally during this time. This brought the idea of having our kids, the “students” at home, help our elderly neighbors and learn home economics at the same time.

Have you picked up the phone to call and see if your elderly neighbors or family members have food available? Do they need someone to talk to during this isolating time? Even with social distancing, you and your family have the ability to support these individuals with the telephone calls or even letters. 

We can use home economics to help our neighbors by teaching our kids to meal plan with nutrients in mind. This can be taught using the updated food pyramid, or through counting the colors of foods in a meal. For younger kids, focus on 5 different colors per a meal. Students can then make a grocery list over the phone with their neighbor. By utilizing InstaCart or another delivery service, they can help the elderly neighbor place their grocery order. 

Budgeting can also be taught through InstaCart or other ordering apps. Set the total budget ahead of time with the neighbor, then allow the student to calculate the total for the groceries and tax fees. County tax rates can be found easily online. 

 If your elderly neighbor is only able to microwave, the student can learn to read labels to look for ingredients. When reading labels, make sure to teach your student how the food ingredients are listed in largest to smallest quantity used in manufacturing. Also teach your student to look for labels with real real food ingredients which the student can easily identify. Lastly, teach your student how to read a nutritional label and understand the amount of sugar, carbohydrate, salt and protein. 

A good rule of thumb when selecting processed and easy to eat foods is to look for items with less than 5 grams of sugar per a serving. The Glycemic load can be calculated by subtracting fiber from carbohydrates. (Carbohydrates - fiber = Glycemic Load). In functional medicine we suggest finding food items with a glycemic load less than 14. This can help keep blood sugar stabilized.

The student may also be able to help the elderly neighbor with laundry even while practicing social distancing. The neighbor can set the laundry basket out front allowing the student to retrieve the laundry safely and wash and fold for them. Once finished with their laundry lesson, the student can phone the neighbor to let them know their laundry is ready at the front door.

By using home economics to help our neighbors, we are able to teach our kids at home: planning skills, budgeting, mathematics, life skills, nutrition, and administrative skills that they can use in life as an adult. But more importantly, these home economics lessons teach our children how to take care of those in need, and provides them with a sense of accomplishment during this stressful time.

GF Mom Certified Tiffany Hinton is offering a complimentary 30 minute consultation to families to discuss these solutions, and to help find other suggestions if you are struggling with food allergies or restrictions during this time. Click here to schedule a time