Mission Thrive is a wonderful example of a successful demonstration project that was based on research and had real-life impact. It is a set of innovative program models created by the Nova Institute (formerly Institute for Integrative Health) and its partners to empower youth, families, and communities to make lifestyle changes that will support their health and well-being.
Each Mission Thrive model was designed to address the unique needs and challenges of a particular population. Grounded in health science, our models engaged participants in hands-on experiences involving cooking, nutrition, physical fitness, and mindfulness. With practice and mastery of skills, participants were able to incorporate health-promoting strategies into their daily lives. Our programs also inspired participants with the confidence to become health leaders, sharing their knowledge and stories of success with others.
Five Times a Feast broke down barriers to healthy home-cooking: food costs, time for preparation, comfort in the kitchen, and an understanding of nutrition.
Five Times a Feast was a free six-to-eight-week cooking program we designed to address the common challenges associated with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These interactive cooking lessons taught Baltimore City residents to overcome the barriers to healthy home cooking and eating in a budget-friendly way.
Participants of Five Times a Feast attended regular sessions at one of our host sites, and we partnered with local community organizations to recruit participants. We provided each host site with all of the cooking equipment and ingredients necessary for the program as well as a highly trained cooking professional.
This workshop covered information and hands-on practice in overcoming the four largest barriers to healthy home-cooking: budget, time, nutrition knowledge, and comfort in the kitchen. Participants learned cooking skills while they prepared six servings of a healthy recipe. One serving was eaten at the family meal that participants share at the end of the workshop, while the remaining five portions were packaged to take home to share with families or to eat in the week ahead.
For more information about the Five Times a Feast program or to inquire about using the curricula, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Improving your eating habits is a lot easier when healthful food tastes great. That’s the thinking behind Spice MyPlate, a program we created to engage high school students in using spices and herbs to prepare and enjoy nutritious snacks and meals.
The program, piloted at Baltimore’s Patterson High School, emphasizes enjoying good food rather than just improving health. Instead of merely telling students to avoid high levels of sugar, fat, and salt, Spice MyPlate shows them how to make wholesome versions of their favorite dishes every bit as flavorful using spices and herbs.
Participants in the pilot learned the profiles of 12 core spices and herbs, including their origins, health-promoting properties, scientific and historical facts, and common applications in cooking. Then they applied that knowledge—while honing their teamwork and kitchen skills—in making dishes like cozy spiced beef, fruit fondue, and zesty jerk three-bean chili.
The Spice MyPlate curriculum, which uses the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines as a foundation, also teaches students how to read a recipe, plan balanced meals, and estimate appropriate portion sizes.
The program was collaboratively developed, implemented, and evaluated by Nova Institute (formerly the Institute for Integrative Health), the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, and private partners. The McCormick Science Institute provided financial support for research.
A Spice MyPlate research study found that the program improved diet quality and healthy eating attitudes among students who participated compared with a control group of students who did not. Program participants reported increased consumption of whole grain and protein foods and a positive change in attitudes towards consuming vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.
For more information about Spice MyPlate or to inquire about curricula, please contact us at email@example.com.
I never would have thought I’d start planting and getting in the dirt!
This teen is one of many Baltimore City high school students who surprised themselves while taking part in Mission Thrive Summer, a five-week, hands-on experience of farming, cooking, leadership, physical activity, mindfulness, and life skills development.
A partnership between the Nova Institute for Health (formerly the Institute for Integrative Health) and Civic Works’ Real Food Farm, the successful Mission Thrive Summer program taught youth how to plant and harvest food and then prepare it for lunch. Students learned the science of growing plants and vegetables and how to apply principles of good nutrition to everyday healthy eating.
Regular exercise, sports, and field trips kept summer from being sedentary, while leadership training developed students’ teamwork, self-awareness and confidence to deliver health education to the community. Mindfulness training—a combination of yoga, breathing and silent reflection—equipped them with tools for managing stress and regulating their emotions.
The program culminates in a competitive cook-off and a community health fair produced and presented by the students for Baltimoreans of all ages.
Through our partnership with YouthWorks, the Baltimore City youth employment program, many Mission Thrive Summer participants received a paycheck for their good work at Real Food Farm.
The University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine conducted a study of Mission Thrive Summer, measuring potential increases in students’ knowledge, changes in activity and dietary quality, and shifts in emotional well-being, perceived stress, and mindfulness. Based on program evaluation, the Institute for Integrative Health refined this effective model for youth summer enrichment and shared it widely.
Mission Thrive Summer and its outcomes have also been presented in forums such as the National Summer Learning Annual Conference and the International Congress on Integrative Medicine & Health.
To refine our models and promote replication, we tested and evaluated these programs — here are some of our published findings.
A Summer Health Program for African-American High School Students in Baltimore, Maryland: Community Partnership for Integrative Health, Explore (NY), May-Jun 2017: 186-197.
Spice MyPlate: Nutrition Education Focusing Upon Spices and Herbs Improved Diet Quality and Attitudes Among Urban High School Students. American Journal of Health Promotion, May 2016: 346-56.
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Over the past thirty years, we’ve been part of a movement to shift the primary approach to health from one that focuses on disease to a more complete approach. We renamed the “Institute for Integrative Health” the Nova Institute for Health — of People, Places, and Planet because we are building on “person health” and looking at the context of peoples’ lives and communities as well as the health of the planet we all share.