Written by: Izzi Diaz
What happens when you mix a love for the arts and an empty stomach?
The Academy Center of the Arts has partnered with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program to offer Plates and Paints to families in our community. This program pairs color theory and the Eat Smart Be Active curriculum to help families connect nutrition and art while cooking up new recipes on a budget and learning about wellness.
“Just as color theory has guidelines that help create successful paintings and color harmonies, the food on our plates should also be colorful and full of variety to help nourish our bodies,” says Adara Wright, Coordinator of Curriculum Development. “The program is a 4-week class that highlights some of life’s most important concepts; art, food, color, health and communication. Within the class, participants will be educated on the basics of cooking and painting to live a healthier and more colorful lifestyle!”
Wright originally came up with the program idea in response to her interview after applying to work in the Education Department at the Academy.
“I was challenged to design an art program that addresses the need for nutrition awareness in our society. My answer was to bring painting and food together through something they both have in common: color. By allowing a nutrition educator and an artist to work alongside each other, I wanted the program to be enjoyable, approachable, and engaging in such a way to bring families joy and excitement about eating colorful foods while learning the basics of color theory. “
The program uses the color wheel and MyPlate.gov as foundational visuals during each lesson. Guiding those in the program through simple, yet helpful lessons connected back to concepts they already know or have heard of, like color theory, allow them to better retain the concepts. Participants are allowed the opportunity to artistically express themselves in new and different ways through studying the color wheel, color vocabulary (hue, value, & intensity), color harmonies and schemes, color mixing tips and tricks, and how to paint your own still life at home.
Adara partnered with Jeanell Smith, Senior Family Nutrition Program Assistant, Adult SNAP-Ed, in their endeavor, creating a place for families to come together over food and art to learn more about life and each other.
The Eat Smart Be Active curriculum utilizes information from MyPlate. Lesson topics include the five food groups, menu planning, shopping strategies, food safety, portion control, mindful eating, and physical activity,” said Jeanell.
The ACOA provides a basic cooking kit and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provides weekly recipe kits, as well as, supplemental food for the participants. The weekly sessions include nutrition education, a cooking lesson and an art class all via Zoom.
“My favorite parts of my job are connecting with people and the sharing of knowledge. Although I am the instructor, I learn so much from the participants,” states Jeanell. “Zoom classes are not as ideal as in person, however, we are still able to see each other and connect.”
“I believe it is so important to involve the whole family. This way, each family member can support each other and be together involved in the process,” continues Wright. “The family unit and creative outlets are both incredibly important, especially in the midst of a global pandemic where we all may be facing stress and uncertainty.“
During hard times such as these, art proves to be a hand that can pull us out of the darkness. It can unite families, friends, and most of all, remind us of the importance of fellowship. Both art and unity are crucial right now, as they represent the hug that we are all longing for, even if we don’t know that we need it.
Tune in to the Academy Center of the Arts’ Facebook page every Tuesday at 12 PM EST for a live digital Plates & Paints segment, airing for the next six weeks, and stay tuned on how you can sign your family up for Plates and Paints in future months.