Community Partnerships: Summer Lunch Program at SEHWC

Published: September 19, 2019

Written by: Kathleen Manuel, Czesia Eid, and Yolanda Guzman

Now that classes are back in session, many parents are breathing a sigh of relief to get back into the predictable routines of school, including the predictability of school lunches. Many parents and children rely on reduced- or no-cost school meals so when summer approaches, so does the threat of children losing access to a reliable meal. To address this issue, the Texas Department of Agriculture partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank to launch a summer lunch program at participating sites across Central Texas. From June 3 through August 16, low-income families were provided free, nutritious lunches at the Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center (SEHWC). Onc of the first health clinics in Texas to offer a summer lunch program, SEHWC began offering its summer lunch program in 2015as a way to address the issue of food access in Central Texas.

Now in its fourth year, Program Director, Elizabeth Marrero, has reason to tout its success. She notes that many families that participate in this program have grown to rely on it as an easily accessible source for healthy food, with many families serving as “repeat customers” from year to year. She also says that an increasing number of families come specifically for lunch, even if they do not have additional needs to attend to at the clinic. In 2018 and 2019, approximately 3,500 meals were served over the course of both summers, with 70% of those meals feeding children. The nutrition guidelines for the meals follow the MyPlate recommendations set out by the USDA, and by all accounts, the lunches are a big hit with the kids  You can see for yourself the success of SEHWC’s summer lunch program here.)

As part of our partnership with SEHWC, for the second summer in a row students and staff from the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living hosted an activity booth during the lunches. Our staff played nutrition-based games with kids and provided parents educational resources related to physical activity and nutrition. Kids were able to test their knowledge about healthy lifestyles playing our Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH) interactive games, which enabled them to identify healthy foods while promoting food literacy. Three of the most popular games included veggie and fruit tic-tac-toe, a CATCH GO-SLOW-WHOA matching card game, and a sugar-sweetened beverage game in which children were asked to organize sugar-sweetened beverages in order of sugar content. The matching game encouraged children, with the assistance of Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living employees, to try to eat more GO foods that SLOW foods, and to eat WHOA foods in small amounts. Participants flipped over laminated cards and tried to match the picture of the food with the correct GO-SLOW-WHOA category on a different card. The sugar-sweetened beverages game, much to the astonishment of numerous parents at the lunches, highlighted how much sugar is present in many common beverages, even those that are marketed as “healthier choices” or “sports beverages.” Facilitators took this as an opportunity to educate the children and their parents about healthier drink choices like water and low-fat milk.

The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living has a strong commitment to serving the community, especially through partnerships like the one we share with Central Health and the SEHWC. The summer lunch program is one opportunity to interact with Central Texas families while providing resources that highlight the importance of understanding basic nutritional concepts, planning and purchasing for grocery store trips, and preparing healthy foods. If you want to encourage your child to practice healthy habits all year long, familiarize them with GO-SLOW-WHOA foods using this chart, available in both English and Spanish. If you would like to play our CATCH matching card game at home, see below for detailed instructions. For more information on the CATCH program, visit their website.

CATCH GO-SLOW-WHOA (G/S/W) Matching Card Game Instructions

How to make the cards at home:

  1. Print off pictures of 7-10 foods, evenly-spaced, onto a piece of paper. Make them into evenly-sized cards.
  2. Find out if those foods are GO foods, SLOW foods, or WHOA foods. If you’re not sure, use these GO-SLOW-WHOA guidelines to help you decide, or use the GO-SLOW-WHOA chart. Make evenly-sized cards that correspond to each food item card. For example, if you have 3 cards with an apple, an orange, and a slice of pizza printed on each separate card, you’d need to make two GO cards and a WHOA card.
  3. To make your cards last longer (and to save some paper), laminate them for future use!


 How to play:

  1. Face down, separate name cards from food cards.
  2. Open a dialogue about eating and nutrition. Explain to your child(ren) what GO-SLOW-WHOA foods are. If they do not know, please explain the following:
  3. “GO foods – are foods in their most natural state, with no sugar, salt, or fat added to them…an example would be an apple.”
  4. “SLOW foods – are foods that are slightly processed, but mostly in their most natural state, with sugar, salt and/or fat added to them… examples would be applesauce (no peel and/or some sugar), and a large apple dipped in caramel (still has peel, but you’ve added sugar and some fat).”
  5. “WHOA foods – the most known…and often loved, but they are the most processed, no longer like their natural state and have sugar, salt and/or fat add to them…an example would be an apple crisp or apple pie…it doesn’t lot like an apple anymore, you see dough, sugar, pieces of apple.”
  6. Have your child(ren) match the food cards with their appropriate GO-SLOW-WHOA category. Repeat with new cards as needed.