Susan Morin knows exactly what she wants for breakfast. At the Serving Spoon, on Osprey Avenue, she orders an omelet with two eggs instead of three and then adds tomatoes before launching into what sounds like a regularly practiced speech on why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. She’s the embodiment of her two ongoing efforts: the Children’s Healthy Pantry Foundation and the Yummy Stuff Club.
The concept originally started in 1997 with a radio program called “Bedtime Story” that Morin headed up in Rhode Island. But when the station was sold, she moved the program to a library in her hometown of Woonsocket, R.I.
“I loved working with kids and got certified to be an assistant to substitute teachers,” Morin said. “It was enough fulfillment, but during the time, I was watching the children’s eating and behavior. I thought that they were feeding these kids more carbs than they needed to eat in a week and then telling them to be quiet without letting them burn off the energy they had ingested.”
It was serendipitous when the town asked Morin to create an after-school program to inspire children to eat healthier foods.
She compiled a booklet that included information on grooming, hygiene and diet. In 2002, she moved to Sarasota, and she took her Yummy Stuff Club: Eat Smart to be Smart program to the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County. Once a week she worked with the same group of kids to promote healthier eating choices. Soon, children who weren’t even involved in the program were trading in Coca-Cola for fruit smoothies.
“My whole thing is that I want it to be a fun experience to learn about preparing food and eating healthy,” Morin said. “When mentioning healthy food, their initial reaction is not positive. One of the goals I have is to help them overcome that mentality.”
Most recently, Morin has started the Yummy Stuff Club at Booker Middle School. She noticed that some of the children were overweight, and many didn’t eat any fruit. She wrote a proposal to have fresh food delivered once a week. The Detweiler family, who owns a retail produce market on Cattlemen Road, volunteered to donate 400 pieces of fruit each week to the school.
With the help of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Morin also created The Children’s Healthy Pantry Foundation at Booker Middle School. The pantry is regularly stocked with healthy foods that are accessible to students for free. Its purpose is to ensure that students begin their school day by eating something healthy.
On Wednesday, Morin met with Emma E. Booker Elementary School staff to discuss establishing a second pantry there. The pantry was approved and will be stocked Feb. 1.
“I know what the kids feel like when they don’t eat because I can’t focus when I’m hungry,” said Bao Nguyen, an eighth-grade student at Booker Middle. “It’s good that we have this.”
The Children’s Healthy Pantry Foundation is hosting a “foodraiser” through Saturday, Jan. 22. Donations of non-perishable items are welcome and are tax-deductible. The pantry needs items such as individual applesauce cups, raisin boxes, breakfast bars, milk boxes, cereal boxes and juice boxes (sugar-free, if possible) whole-wheat bread, yogurt, low-fat peanut butter and sugar-free jelly.
Drop-off sites include Emma E. Booker Elementary School, Booker Middle School, the Community Foundation, Temple Beth Israel, Southside Deli and Dreamweaver. Visit www.yummystuffclub.com for information.
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]