Yuck! Eww! I don’t like broccoli...or peas, or carrots, or lettuce or...and the list goes on. Picky eating not only makes meals a complicated affair, it also increases the likelihood that your child may not be getting a full and balanced diet.
Nutrition is such a key aspect of health and while there’s a lot of great information out there for both parents and kids about diet and nutrition, if a child is a particularly picky eater, putting the guidelines into practice can be a challenge. Enter Funny Food Art, a novel approach that gets kids excited about foods they wouldn’t normally try, and also teaches them about nutrition. We met the founders, Bill and Claire Wurtzel, several years ago, and have been lucky enough to host them at The Meeting House for one of their delightful and educational workshops. With March being National Nutrition Month, we sat down with them again to learn more about the ways that their approach can be helpful for kids and families in the critical team effort to promote healthy eating habits.
It all started with the thoughtfulness between Bill, a full-time jazz musician, and his wife Claire, a special education teacher. Claire had shared that when she was a child she always enjoyed baking challah with her mom, who would make the experience especially fun by shaping the extra dough into silly things like ducks or feet with cinnamon and raisins between the toes. In an effort to recreate that joyful memory, Bill began crafting fun designs into Claire’s breakfasts and soon after Funny Food Art was born. His creations went from the breakfast table, to Facebook, to the New York Times Online, and eventually were compiled for two books: “Funny Food”, which won a Best Children's Book of 2012 by the Bank Street College Book Committee and “Funny Food Made Easy”, which features hundreds of Bill’s creations, and shows readers how to make their own food art.
Bill and Claire give workshops all over the world, from New York to Israel to Sweden. In these workshops Bill and Claire demonstrate how to use healthy foods to create fun designs that kids will want to eat. Their motto, “make it, taste it,” reflects their belief that when kids make their food they will be more likely to eat it.
They’ve held workshops at hospitals and museums and are particularly passionate about bringing Funny Food Art to youth in underserved neighborhoods, who are often at greater risk for a range of health challenges including type ll diabetes. Claire described a workshop at one of the schools saying, “Half the kids are living in shelters and they don’t eat fruits. Fruits are expensive; veggies are expensive. When I ask the kids to raise their hand if they tried something they’d never eaten before during the workshop almost every hand goes up. There are kids who have never eaten blueberries, lettuce, things that we take for granted.” These workshops are not only a great way to promote healthy eating but also allow kids to stretch their imagination and creativity.
Bill and Claire’s Evening Wellness Workshops allow parents to join in on the fun and learn how to turn food and meal preparation into an opportunity for creativity and joy. Funny Food Art emphasizes a balanced breakfast that can help kids stay focused and alert in school. They encourage kids and parents to cut down on high sugar breakfasts, for example, by swapping fruit for syrup on waffles or pancakes. They also share images that illustrate facts about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and participants are always surprised to learn how much these foods can impact their health.
We love Bill and Claire’s unique, dynamic, and sensory-rich approach to mealtime, and encourage you to check out their website for photos of their adorable and funny designs. Particularly if you have a selective eater in the house, Funny Food Art can transform potentially stressful and challenging interactions into the brightest part of the day.