It is no secret childhood obesity is a major problem in our society due to sedentary lifestyles and high consumption of processed foods. Although fresh produce is offered at school during lunch times, it often ends up in the trash rather than being consumed by students. To encourage youth to get excited about eating more fruits and vegetables, the County of San Diego teamed up with the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, Home Start Inc. and a local farmer’s market to present the La Mesa Food Day Passport Challenge in October 2015.
Food Day is a national celebration of healthy, affordable and sustainable food, celebrated locally through events with interactive activities around food. The goal is to inspire Americans to enjoy eating real foods and improve food policies locally. As part of the La Mesa Food Day Passport Challenge, La Mesa-Spring Valley schools encouraged students and their families to attend the La Mesa Farmer’s Market to meet local farmers and learn more about the fresh produce grown in San Diego. As an added bonus, the school with the most attendees at the farmer’s market won a follow-up activity at their school. Food Day Passports sent students and their families around the farmer’s market to a “Rethink Your Drink” exhibit, a food art activity and a produce taste test, followed by a food scavenger hunt. The school with the highest attendance at the Food Day Passport Challenge was La Mesa Dale Elementary School.
As a follow up program for students at La Mesa Dale, the County of San Diego’s Community Health Engagement Team and nutrition educators from Home Start Inc. visited the school during three different recesses during the month of December. Together, they shared a unique SPARK physical activity program with students that focused on healthy eating. SPARK is an evidence-based physical education program that promotes lifelong wellness starting at an early age.
The SPARK game chosen for the day was aimed at encouraging the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Students were separated into groups and challenged to make a healthy plate by placing bean bags labelled with different food items into their hula-hoop plate. Students had to do a silly dance, skip or hop to move to the opposite end of the field to go “grocery shopping” by collecting a bean bag and bringing it back to their plate. The team would then decide whether the food should be included on their plate or not. Foods of all types were represented, ranging from apples and broccoli all the way to sugar sweetened beverages and fried deserts. Without prompting, the students naturally decided to choose the healthy option.
The goal of the Food Day Passport Challenge was to encourage youth to get excited about eating more fruits and vegetables by showing their benefits and the importance of good eating habits. About 30 families attended the farmer’s market for the passport challenge and about 350 students participated in the follow-up program at La Mesa Dale Elementary. By looking at personal eating habits and choosing healthful options during meal times, adults can lead the way as role models for children and provide guidance for health eating. To learn more about the building blocks for a healthy diet visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Article written by Kelsey Strong, Home Start Inc.