As international news headlines warn of childhood obesity and related diseases, an Okanagan nine-year-old and her mom are taking action to help kids achieve a healthy attitude toward eating, with their Today I Ate a Rainbow books and videos.
Kia Robertson admits that it’s tough to get kids excited about eating fruit and vegetables. Even though daughter Hannah isn’t a picky eater (she was already choosing carrots over carrot cake at the age of two), Kia confesses to struggling with her own leftover, childhood pickiness.
Then she read that kids really benefit from eating multiple colours of fruit and veggies during the day—and that started it.
Kia and her husband Jamie produced a chart with magnetic stick-ons because at the time Hannah was into charts. “Little kids really like the motivation and feeling of accomplishment they get from completing everything on a [daily progress] chart,” says Kia.
From there the project just seemed to evolve. The mom and daughter duo wrote The Rainbow Bunch, the first book in a planned series, to back up the message of eating different colours.
The basic message is that all plants contain phytonutrients, chemicals that help to keep people healthy if eaten regularly. Different plants contain different phytonutrients as indicated by the colour of the fruits and vegetables they produce. So to get a balanced diet it makes sense to eat a rainbow of the five different colour groups—red, orange, yellow, green and purple—daily.
Today I Ate A Rainbow is a family adventure in good health, publishing and videography. Public interest grew from posts on Facebook and Twitter. Because Jamie was already in the commercial Internet video business, it wasn’t a big leap to videos on YouTube and eventually their own website.
Hannah is a nine-year-old cutie with real Pippi Longstocking appeal, making her a natural on camera. So far they’ve made six videos and attracted the attention of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who asked them to appear in a clip last spring (www.todayiatearainbow.com/videos/featured-videos) for his Food Revolution program to teach kids (and adults) about the benefits of eating good foods.
But Hannah also developed her own fan base and started making personal videos for other kids to help them with private eating issues. Her biggest fan is Ellie-May from Ireland, but she has also made short videos for kids as far away as Australia and as close as Calgary.
Private videos can sometimes be as little as two minutes in length, but they inspire and offer alternatives to junk food. In one case she introduced a girl in Calgary to frozen bananas as a replacement for some of the junk food she was eating.
The family have now created a kit containing the chart, with colour tracking magnets, and the book. Plans are in the works for a new book to be released this summer called Picky, Picky Pippa about a picky eater and how she overcomes her unhealthy habits.
Eventually, the goal is to produce six more publications based on the characters in the first book in the series. The characters will offer kids strategies that they can adopt to address issues like cooking, gardening, fitness and obesity.
New books will follow the style of the original with rhyming text and colourful illustrations. Kia does most of the writing and Hannah consults. Kia arranges to print her work with a print-on-demand company in Kelowna.
Kia was trained as a professional massage therapist prior to her collaboration with Hannah. She had no writing or video experience and turned to husband Jamie for advice on both videography and printing (he worked at a printing company before setting out on his own).
Hannah attends North Glenmore Elementary School, which she loves, and says her Grade 4 teacher, Mrs. Letkeman, is “the best teacher in the world. She’s nice and funny and we do awesome projects.”
Hannah already knows she would like to work in the newspaper business when she finishes her education, but for the moment she contents herself with her online celebrity. Work on her food-related projects—like the videos—is relegated exclusively to Saturdays. That way Kia and Jamie have the time to work with her, and the pressure of homework can be dealt with on Sunday.
Look for links to Hannah’s videos and learn more about helping your kids to healthy eating habits at www.TodayIAteARainbow.com. ~ Story and photo by Bruce Kemp