Johnny Morgan, Gillett, Danna F.
MANGHAM, La. – Students and parents gathered at Mangham Elementary School on April 25 to participate in Family Nutrition Night, an innovative, hands-on experience as part of the school wellness program.
The program was developed by LSU AgCenter nutrition agents Cathy Agan and Terri Crawford, both from the northeast region.
The program teaches parents and children the importance of making more healthful choices and including activity to combat childhood obesity, said LSU AgCenter nutrition agent Danna Gillett.
During the program, parents and their children participated in experiential learning activities at six stations where they learned about making good choices to lead a healthy life.
To kick off the night, Gillett presented information on the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables and being more physically active.
“The parents and the students go through the six stations together so each of them can learn these important lessons,” Gillett said.
AgCenter nutrition agents are facilitating Family Nutrition Night events throughout the state as part of the LSU AgCenter Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative. Agents are collaborating with schools and other groups offering this program and others, such as the Smart Bodies program and Body Walk.
Schools participate in the program by providing teachers and other volunteers to teach the information at each station.
The LSU AgCenter provides all the supplies and educational materials packaged in a “grab and go” kit. Agents work cooperatively with schools to ensure that a healthful meal is provided for participants, said Gillett.
At the various stations, the participants heard about proper portion sizes, the amount of added sugars in beverages, the importance of eating a healthful breakfast, how to make wise snack choices and ways to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.
The wellness initiative in schools is a statewide mandate from the legislature that requires each school and school district to have a wellness plan, Gillett said.
Mangham Elementary School Principal Angie Snuggs said this event is part of the wellness program they’ve been implementing in the school for the past three years.
“We’ve been trying to do a little bit every year and this year, we decided to partner with the AgCenter to help us maximize our efforts and bring their nutrition expertise to our school,” Snuggs said. “We started a walking program three years ago, and now we’re only serving healthy snacks. We’ve just been trying to implement something new every year.”
She said the students gave up their second recess, and now they use that time to walk for 15 minutes every day, except Friday.
Snuggs said her teachers use a formula to simulate miles, where they walk across the United States and try to visit every state.
“The first year it was a little bit tough on them,” she said. “Two times around their walking track equals a mile, and the teachers add up the miles at the end of the week. They then let them know how many miles it takes to get from one state to the next one.”
Gillett said it’s really important to get parents involved because she wants them to understand the importance of their children eating right and how this affects their ability to learn.
Nancy Lawrence, one of the parents attending with her daughter, who’s in second grade at the school, said the Family Nutrition Night is a good idea for bringing information to the children and the parents.
“They really had the children’s attention when they showed how much added sugar is in the different drinks,” Lawrence said.
Lonna Hughes, a second-grade student, said she learned that she needs to eat good food and her body needs to be healthy.
“I already knew that, but I haven’t been doing it,” Lonna said. “It will be hard, but I will try.”
Family Nutrition Night kits are available throughout the state and can be checked out by any community group, church group or school that would like to partner with LSU AgCenter nutrition agents.
For additional information on the Family Nutrition Night program or any of the LSU AgCenter’s nutrition and wellness programs, contact your LSU AgCenter parish office or visit the website at www.LSUAgCenter.com.Johnny Morgan