The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

West Patent kids learn healthy habits


By NATALIA BAAGE-LORD
SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

Fifth-grader John Pierangelo looks to sample a yogurt drink at the West Patent Elementary School Wellness assembly on Tuesday, March 12.

 

The auditorium smelled like sweet cantaloupe and honeydew. Balled watermelon and other juicy fruits sat on platters, ready for the children to devour.

On Tuesday, March 12, West Patent Elementary School was visited by Stacey Antine, creator and founder of HealthBarn USA, to help celebrate March as National Nutrition Month. HealthBarn is a local organization that empowers children by introducing them to healthy, natural foods and teaching them what is good for their bodies. At the “barn” in Yorktown Heights’ Hilltop Hanover Farm, children can learn how to plant and grow their own fruits and vegetables.

“I wanted to create an awareness,” said West Patent principal Vera Berezowsky. “I wanted the need for thinking about healthy foods and thinking about our responsibility to the Earth. Making children aware that you just don’t go to the store and pick something up. To think about the ‘from seed to table’ idea. To be aware of how things grow, what we need, and how it fuels their bodies.”

During the assembly students raised their hands excitedly to help Ms. Antine recite the seven healthy habits that every child should know. They learned that it is important to eat breakfast, consume produce, exercise, sleep nine hours each night, have family meals, recycle and brush their teeth.

Ms. Antine taught them that people should not eat “junk” foods like Doritos and Lunchables, or ingest sugary drinks like Gatorade. If the food has ingredients that you do not understand, she said, do not eat it.

“If we feed our plants Doritos, wouldn’t they die?” asked Ms. Antine, whose question received a resounding “yes!” from the audience. “We compost fruits and vegetables. Can we compost Lunchables and Doritos? No. We have to think about what we are feeding ourselves.”

Several students were selected to be “expert taste testers.” The first four students sampled cantaloupe and honeydew, which, respectively, have vitamins A and C. They also tasted fiber-filled grapes and watermelon, which aid in hydration. All four students gave the fruits the thumbs-up sign. As Ms. Antine asked the children about their favorite fruits, many replied that they enjoy watermelon and mango the most.

“This assembly is a great idea,” said Maria Reno, a nurse at West Patent Elementary School. “It takes a great deal of work, but it is important for the children to get used to or to experience new foods that, chances are, some of them are not exposed to regularly.”

While testing vegetables, the students learned that carrots have vitamin A, yellow peppers are chock-full of vitamin C, tomatoes contain lycopene, and broccoli has vitamin K.

After finding out that most of the students drink chocolate milk regularly, Ms. Antine asked the children to drink natural white milk more often as it is better for their bodies. She added that they should save the processed, sugary chocolate milk for a treat. Students were also treated to samples of 1 percent milk, soy milk and rice milk. While many children had tasted cow’s milk before, soy milk was unfamiliar and rice milk was completely new. However, both were decently received by the students.

The rainbow swirly smoothie, made with strawberries, banana, yogurt and orange juice, was a student favorite. The recipe was sent home in each child’s backpack for them to recreate at home. It received a resounding, “two thumbs-up” from most students.

The assembly was only a start for students, staff members said. “It is good, but the assembly will not be enough,” said Ms. Reno. “Hopefully, their parents will be encouraged as well to introduce and enforce similar things. Hopefully, at home they can help change their eating habits. If the foods are provided at home and parents expose the kids at home to healthy foods, then it will be much easier for them to make the right choice later.”

At the end of the assembly, Ms. Antine donated HealthBarn’s recipe book, “Appetite for Life: The Thumbs-Up, No-Yucks Guide to Getting Your Kid to be a Great Eater,” to the West Patent Elementary School library. She encouraged the children to borrow the 100-recipe book in order to create fresh and natural meals or snacks at home.

The school will open its garden patches during the second week of April, said Ms. Berezowsky, where they will learn to plant vegetables and flowers. One highlight is when the third-graders plant flowers for a unit on butterflies. They will also plant pumpkins in June to harvest as fourth-graders in October.


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March 22, 2013

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