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Third Graders Join Food Revolution

Back in November, five third graders made an appointment with their principal at Coleytown Elementary School.  Two of the girls, Sophia Tricarico and Lili Romann,  had read an article in Time for Kids magazine in their class about how kids can make more healthful eating choices.  This article got the girls thinking--they too wanted to spread the message of healthy eating in their school.  They asked a couple more kids to get involved, and then went to meet with their principal.

After that first meeting, Principal Melissa Paolini-Kay put the girls in touch with Meg Whitbeck, resident dietician provided to the district by Chartwells, Westport Public Schools' food vendor.  They also gave themselves an official name: Food is Fuel or FIF.  In a high tech move, FIF decided that their first major project would be to create short videos to broadcast to the entire school.

“They came to me,” said Principal Paolini-Kay. “This a grassroots movement that started with the kids.  They even started their movement before Michelle Obama.”  In February, the First Lady announced a national campaign, “ Let’s Move ”,  to get kids to eat right and get in shape.  Just last week, the Childhood Obesity Task Force came out with their action plan. In addition, the girls are no stranger to  "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," a TV show by with a celebrity chef who focuses on healthy eating, especially in schools.

“We want to teach kids to make healthy choices,” says Olivia Tacopina, who along with the other girls gave up her recess to attend FIF meetings.

The girls and Paolini-Kay thought one of the best ways to reach the entire school was through video. All of Westport’s elementary schools have TV studios where students can produce messages that are then broadcast to all classrooms via the SMARTboards in every classroom.

With the help of Whitbeck and Pam Cyndercombe, CES technology teacher, the girls wrote scripts for five videos, each focusing on a different aspect of healthful eating.  They are titled: "Balance Your Day with Food and Play," "Fuel Up With Fruit and Veggies," "Eat the Rainbow," and "Move More, Sit Less."

All the girls chimed in when asked what they learned about nutrition from Whitbeck:  “You need a balance of foods.  Eat grains and fruits and veggies. You need some fat for your brain and eyes. Protein is important for your muscles and it helps fights coughs and colds.”

Alexandra Berman, an FIF member, is teaching her little brother about nutrition.  Her mother, Marina Levin-Berman, says she hears Alexandra say, “Eat your yogurt, it is a good source of protein.”

FIF plans to be back next year, but hasn’t figured out its an upcoming project yet.  Whitbeck says she’d like to expand this type of program to other elementary schools.  “I teach the kids and then they teach the rest of their school.  The kids themselves are showing me how they learn best and how to get the message out about healthy food.”

Whitbeck says that as a result of her meetings with the kids, she's made some modifications to the elementary school lunch menu, including incorporating fruit salad and strawberries.   In addition to nutrition education, Whitbeck’s role includes menu planning and helping the district with children with allergies.

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