Thursday, May 19, 2005

Eating Their Veggies In New Jersey

They're teaching pre-schoolers to eat their apples, broccoli, and carrots in New Jersey.

As schools nationwide contend with an epidemic of obese youngsters, the Nutritional Sciences Preschool at Rutgers University has been teaching children as young as 3 to choose fruit and vegetables over junk food. And the kids seem to like it.

"We love broccoli!" 3-year-old sisters Sara and Molly Balsamo of Milltown told preschool director, Harriet Worobey, one day last week.

In another class, 5-year-old Justin Najimian of East Brunswick told a visitor everyone should eat lots of bananas and apples and that his favorite snacks are pretzels and bananas.

"It's a really cool school," he added.

Founded in 1991, the half-day preschool's curriculum focuses on nutrition. While there is the standard preschool fare such as reading readiness, art and science, each day includes at least 30 minutes of nutrition lessons -- some prepared by the dozens of Rutgers education and nutrition students who earn credits for helping out.

In the junior high school where I teach, I see multitudes of kids eating nothing but junk food every day. In defiance of school rules, they walk about with genetically-attached bags of Doritos or Cheetos in their hands. For them, it's probably a little late for the schools to fundamentally change their eating habits.

Having said that, I think that what they are doing in New Brunswick is great. The schools have the best chance of influencing kids to eat better if they start 'em off young.

In an ideal world, it would be the parents who would teach their children healthy eating habits.
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