In a brightly colored room, six preschool-age children help categorize produce by type and color, as part of a “Taste the Rainbow” healthy eating class at Parker Place.
As the little ones sit in a semi-circle, the instructor unveils a box full of plastic foods like a pepper, a pumpkin and a strawberry. Once the children figure out if the item is a fruit or a vegetable, they select the right barrel by color.
Dr. Elizabeth Parker stands behind the group, talking with parents and caregivers.
Before opening her medical practice on Old Solomons Island Road in July 2018, the pediatric endocrinologist worked with children who had health problems like poor growth, puberty issues and diabetes as an attending physician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“I saw a lot of kids whenever I was at work," she said. “I think part of the struggle in general pediatrics is ... the lack of time. They have contact with the kids, but they don’t necessarily have the time to delve into things. I figured I can work with the kids who may have gotten to a point where they need a specialist.”
Parker Place is a clinic for children in need of a lifestyle change through nutrition, exercise, sleep habits and more.
“It is easy for someone to come in and say, I was sent because my doctor says I have high blood sugar and I need to see you,” Parker said. But she goes beyond reviewing medical history and paperwork to hold a conversation with her patients.
“Every first patient, I normally know what they had for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. Did they pack their lunch or get a school lunch?”
Beyond her one-on-one sessions, her clinic also hosts events like the classes on trying new fruits and vegetables, as well as workshops on preparing healthy lunches and making wholesome meals.
“We tried to throw out a wide net and get as many programs as we could and let the pediatricians in the area know we were here as a resource for referrals,” Parker said.
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Certain wellness-based classes are open to the public — some of them free, some for a small fee (on average $15 per child). Other events are offered to groups at schools, public libraries and elsewhere.
At the Taste the Rainbow class, after the children learn about the produce on display, they try foods like red cherry tomatoes, green sugar snap peas and blackberries. A couple faces scrunch up, but the children still reach for something new to try.