Connie Q. Aclin, Robinson, Edwin H., Roy, Heli J., Coolman, Denise | 4/22/2005 9:01:21 PM
The LSU AgCenter is teaching youngsters across Louisiana to adopt healthier lifestyles.
One example came when LSU AgCenter faculty members participated in a health fair recently (April 6) at Linwood Middle School in Shreveport. The fair included 20 displays that taught about healthy eating and exercise, and the AgCenter provided eight of the educational exhibits that focused on nutrition and food safety.
Connie Aclin, an LSU AgCenter nutrition agent in Shreveport, said one of the AgCenter’s educational activities involved the students in a scavenger hunt that required them to find answers about good health at the various displays.
"We’re doing this to teach the students about making healthy choices," Aclin said.
Travon Robinson and Xavier Wesley, both 7th graders at Linwood Middle School, said the health fair was a fun way to learn about proper nutrition.
"I didn’t even know what folate was," Robinson said. "But now I know it is important, and I know what foods to eat so that I can get enough of it."
Wesley said he also learned about the different foods a person his age needs to eat in order to be healthy.
"This is fun," he said. "I’m learning a lot."
Peggy Raish, a registered nurse at Christus Schumpert Hospital in Shreveport, said activities such as the health fair have a two-fold purpose.
"Students learn how to make healthier choices," Raish said. "The students also bring this information to their families at home, and everyone benefits. These are really smart students, and they know this information is important for them to lead healthy lifestyles."
The health fair was just one of many cooperative efforts between the LSU AgCenter and Linwood Middle School – as well as other schools across the state. For example, with the help of the Linwood Middle School-based clinic, the LSU AgCenter held seven sessions of a nutrition and fitness education program that was designed to reach 7th- and 8th-grade girls with body mass indexes that indicated they were obese.
Cathryn Robinson, an LSU AgCenter agent in Caddo Parish, said obesity among the nation’s youth has reached epidemic proportions.
"This is directly related to a decrease in exercise, poor food choices and lack of nutritional knowledge among youth," Robinson said.
The key component of the sessions was to assist the girls in seeing that they had the power to make choices and that making the right choices would increase their self esteem, appearance and lifespan.
"The girls were introduced to healthy snacks, lowering fat in meals, hidden fats in fast foods, decreasing fat without compromising taste, dietary guidelines and serving sizes," Robinson said. "At the end of the sessions most girls had lowered their total body weight or maintained it rather than gaining."
The LSU AgCenter made a difference by making the girls aware of the future health effects and allowing them to know that someone cares, Robinson said
Dr. Heli Roy, an LSU AgCenter nutritionist, said joint efforts such as the Linwood Elementary health fair are taking place across Louisiana.
"We are involved with school-based health centers all over the state to teach nutrition education," Roy said. "These types of activities are important so that when these young people start making their own choices, they can make the right choices."
For more information on nutrition and health and other topics ranging from agriculture to family finances and more, go to www.lsuagcenter.com.
Connie Aclin at (318) 226-6805 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathryn Robinson at (318) 636-4700 or email@example.com
Heli Roy at (225) 578-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or email@example.com