St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ Head Start adds WISE program to curriculum

The WISE program introduces Head Start students to various fruits and vegetables.

Students in the St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ Head Start program have a colorful and delicious addition to their curriculum this year – the We Inspire Smart Eating (WISE) program.

WISE is a direct education intervention designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children in early education programs, as well as in the home.

Nicole Weber, administrator of Head Start and four-year old programs for SCPPS, explained that WISE delivers developmentally appropriate food experiences and promotes behavior change through its three components: classroom curricula, parent engagement content, and educator training. The intervention is designed to be delivered across a nine-month term with food experiences and supporting activities executed weekly.

As a part of the pilot year of the program, Weber said teachers at both George Washington Carver Early Learning Center in Hahnville and East Bank Head Start in Destrehan received training and have access to WISE coaches as they implement the program.

“Moving forward we will have all of the resources that we need,” she said. “Everyone was trained through the WISE program in August in order to be effective in the classroom. I can actually say that in the cafeteria … we eat with our students daily … that the teachers and instructors are saying that the students are actually trying more new or unfamiliar foods.”

Kelisha Washington, center director for the George Washington Carver Early Learning Center, wrote a grant that made the program’s implementation possible. She said United Way St. Charles also assists in funding the purchase of the fruits and vegetables used for the program, which delivers two food experiences every week to students.

“When you’re dealing with young learners, they’re very picky eaters,” Washington said. “This curriculum allows them to feel, explore, and use all their senses and encourages them to try new foods.”

Washington said the WISE program creates positive changes in child and family eating behaviors that align with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, specifically, increasing the number and variety of servings of fruit and vegetables consumed. She said students are given an inside look of where fruits and vegetables come from, the life cycle, and discuss factual information about the produce.

Through the WISE program, Washington added, students explore, taste, and discuss different foods and are able to see how those fruits and vegetables are included in main dishes by cooking them in the classroom setting.

“They’re learning about the life cycle of the foods and hearing stories from local farmers and the background of where the food comes from,” she said. “They explore it in their natural state and then cook it.”


About Monique Roth 884 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

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