A few Skidmore College students went back to primary school Wednesday, visiting the local high school and an elementary school to talk about healthy eating and offer youngsters a healthy snack.
They treated Saratoga Springs High School students to fruit smoothies and gave homemade trail mix to kids at Division Street Elementary School.
The outreach project was their way to recognize the American Heart Association’s National Eating Healthy Day.
“Poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of disease,” says Skidmore professor Paul Arciero, who teaches Principles of Nutrition at the college, and believes that early intervention through education is critical. Arciero wanted his students to apply what they’re learning to a real-world experience.
“We thought it would be a good idea to get out into the community... and they jumped on it,” says Arciero, who is also a member of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association. “We are participating in National Eating Healthy Day because we want to give back to our community by educating and promoting healthy eating habits and strategies.”
He and two students set up a table of healthy-eating literature in the Division Street lunchroom and they shared trail mix and nut-free trail mix with students. Three others were at the high school.
“I saw an opportunity to do community outreach – make the kids a healthy snack – and talk to them a little about healthy food,” says junior Tim Brodsky, a health and exercise science major and member of the Skidmore swim team who hopes to pursue a career in nutrition or public health.
He and senior Joe Phalen, a pre-med in the same major and also a soccer player, mingled with the children and chatted about the snacks they had made from scratch in Skidmore’s demonstration kitchen. Ingredients included banana chips, dried apples, raisins, nuts and home- made granola. Some packets were nut-free so that children with allergies could have them, too.
“I think it’s nice to get out of the Skidmore College campus and be with the community,” says Phalen, who is impressed with the state’s and school district’s healthier lunch initiatives. But, he says, just serving better food isn’t enough. “It’s important to talk about food, too,” in order to encourage children to form good lifelong habits.
Two kindergartners who nibbled the trail mix alongside their lunches from home, called the snacks “yummy.” Especially the chocolate. The college students said mixing in a bit of dark chocolate provides an anti-oxidant and makes the snack more enticing.
“Division Street Elementary School is proud of its commitment to teaching our students about good health, nutrition, and exercise,” says Division Street Principal Dr. Greer E. Miller. “It’s wonderful that the Skidmore students are coming to reinforce the healthy eating message to our students.”
Several children wanted to bring the bags of trail mix home, but weren’t allowed to bring them out of the lunchroom because of the nuts. Some students have severe nut allergies and the school has a very strict no-nut policy.
Arciero and his students decided that the next time they bring health food into the schools, they’ll package it differently or bring other, nut-free snacks instead.
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