During the month of January and beginning of February, Ms. Jessica Rontey’s third-grade class and Mrs. Megan Laz’s fourth-grade class participated in Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Eat Smart New York” nutrition education workshops.
According to the mission statement of the Capital Region “Eat Smart New York” program, the focus is on providing “nutrition education workshops, materials and messages, and environmental, policy, and systems-change activities and support.”
The aim is to assist youth and adults to eat more fruits and vegetables, drink less sugar-sweetened beverages, exercise more and balance calories for a healthy lifestyle.
“At first I did not understand why we were learning about this,” said fourth-grader Emmett Smerdon. “But as the class went on it started making sense to me and was really worth it.”
Kim Maercklein, Community Nutrition Educator for “Eat Smart New York,” led four lessons and discussions over the four weeks. Participants were focused around balanced nutrition, drink choices, and the importance of physical activity.
The classes also took part in final cooking skills class where the students made a healthy meal of veggie chili together.
“We work with schools and community organizations to bring free nutrition classes that increase skills and resources so people can make healthy choices in their lives,” said Ms. Maercklein.
Students received a kid’s guide, Whoa, Slow and Go, to help them think about healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices. The healthiest category is Go; Slow is okay sometimes; and things that make you stop, think, and say, Whoa, can be okay once-in-a-while.
During the drink-choice lesson, students learned about drinks that fall in the Whoa, Slow and Go categories. Whoa, high in sugar drinks like soda, should be consumed minimally; Slow, 100 percent juices may be consumed sometimes; and Go, water, is always a good choice.
Ms. Maercklein gave out reusable water bottles to each student along with facts about healthy drink choices to provide them with a helpful resource at home.
“I drink a lot of water already, but it made me feel good that I am making the right choice,” said third-grader Brennan Berry. “Even though I wasn’t into some of the food we tried the classes helped me understand why eating healthier food is better for me.”
Ms. Rontey said, “Students were challenged to bring healthier snacks to class during the last weeks, and it brought about great discussion during snack time.”
The fourth graders in Mrs. Laz’s room enjoyed the program and talked about using the kid’s guide, Whoa, Slow and Go, to make better choices, especially when it comes to snacks.
“I tried my Mom’s healthy popcorn and realized it is just as good as the regular kind,” said fourth-grader Nicholas Catricala. “Ms. Maercklein made me think about trying new things.”
The most popular lesson among both the third- and fourth-grade students was the smoothie-making lesson.
“We made smoothies, which you might think aren’t always the healthiest,” said fourth-grade student Kaylee Higareda. “But when you put chia seeds in, which were new to me, it made it really good and healthier.”
The program has concluded, but there is a buzz at BES, and students and teachers are hoping to bring back Community Nutrition Educator Kim Maercklein, for “Eat Smart New York,” in the spring.