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Program Teaches Children About Healthy Choices Through Fun

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Rochester: Program Teaches Children About Healthy Choices Through Fun
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Experts say in the last 25 years, child obesity rates have doubled among elementary school children. Doctors are concerned continued bad eating habits will lead to more and more cases of diabetes. A program aimed at teaching children about good nutrition is visiting schools around the country. It came to Victor Thursday.

The auditorium at the Early Childhood Education Center in Victor was filled with dozens and dozens of kindergartners Thursday, and they were having fun.

Through all that fun they were also learning some valuable lessons about eating healthy and nutritious food.

"It's a great program. It's super interactive," said kindergarten teacher Amy Scata, who helped bring the program to Victor schools. "The students are automatically engaged – the singing, the dancing, the magic. And the message behind it, the healthy eating and nutritious choices, it really sticks with them."

FOODPLAY, an award-winning national touring show, was started by a nutritionist in 1982. It features Coach, who helps Janey become a national juggling star by "juggling" healthy foods. The show encourages children to choose more fruits and vegetables and cut down on soda and sweets.

This is the third time Victor has brought FOODPLAY in to perform for students. Teachers said they've noticed a difference with comments like this one from one kindergartner who was watching the show.

"You have to eat healthy foods or else your body will be tired and lazy."

Victor schools Food Service Director Janet Elman said new national regulations have changed the kinds of foods served to school children during lunch, encouraging more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. She says that's helping kids make better choices but she said the work needs to continue at home. FOODPLAY teaches children they can make good nutritional choices anytime, anywhere.

"These characters are like heroes. They become like celebrities," said Elman. "Their message is going to ring true and loud to them versus maybe even your teacher or your parent telling you should be eating your fruits and vegetables."

On its website, FOODPLAY said that USDA evaluations show 75 percent of children who watched FOODPLAY reported eating more fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast more regularly and being more physically active.

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