“It tastes like a rainbow!” exclaimed 9 year old Carlos. His smile, framed by a green mustache from his freshly-made kale, strawberry, banana smoothie, broadened in delight. “Think it might be good with spinach too?”

Carlos and his family lived in Mystic Public Housing, a low-income housing development with a great after-school program. With limited funds, they relied on cheap, starch-based foods to keep them full, but not energized.

“I was always tired so my mom took me to the doctor,” Carlos explained. “When the doctor told us what was wrong, she couldn’t stop crying.” The pediatrician discovered that Carlos was pre-diabetic and was at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, Carlos attended Real Kids Real Food at the Mystic Learning Center for one hour a week. There he got the chance to learn how to prepare food while playing games and expanding his understanding of good nutrition.

“You should see the things I can make now!” Carlos says proudly. “Linguini with marinara sauce is fun—especially making the noodles out of zucchini.” When it was most vital to his health, Carlos learned to love preparing fresh healthy meals, coming home from Real Kids Real Food each week with nutrition tips and recipes, eager to expand his family’s knowledge of healthy eating. Together they learned how green vegetables could help change his prognosis and where they could procure affordable or free vegetables.

Three months later at his next doctor’s appointment, Carlos heard the good news. “All my tests came back clear, and the doctor said I was really healthy!” Carlos beamed. “My mom cried again, but because she was so happy this time.”

Carlos’s success resulted from his mother and his participation in the Real Kids Real Food Program at the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville.  This year’s program, funded by The Staples Foundation, Real Kids Real Food Pre-Teen Program – A Fight Against Obesity and Diabetes in Children directly impacts the reversal of the shocking national trends towards obesity and childhood diabetes. In its fifth successful year, 40 Pre-Teens (ages 8-12) and 20 of their will enjoy hands-on activities regarding nutrition, local and organic food, gardening, grocery shopping, planning and preparing meals, with the ultimate goal of learning how to achieve and continue an overall healthy lifestyle. The program broadens their exposure to making healthy choices with attention to affordability and incorporates physical activities and parent involvement throughout the year. OHS has piloted this program in other public housing environments with measurable success.