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Playing with Food can Teach Lessons

Playing with food can teach lessons

By Melissa Gagliardi, Louisville Courier-Journal, March 30, 2009

Watching someone pour 10 teaspoons of sugar into a cup to demonstrate how much is in a can of soda made an impression on 7-year-old K’Leigh Harris.

“We didn’t know Coca-Cola had sugar in it,” said the Hazelwood Elementary School second-grader. “I thought it had juice in it.”

But now she knows better, as do hundreds of students who saw “FoodPlay,” a program by an Emmy Award-winning nutrition media company that was performed at 10 Jefferson County elementary schools last week. It’s the second year that the company, FoodPlay Productions, has come to Jefferson County.

“FoodPlay” was created by nutritionist Barbara Storper under original sponsorship by the New York City Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 1982, the program has been presented to more than 3 million school children nationwide. Its goal is to motivate children toward healthy eating habits.

Two actors, playing “Coach Tom” and “Johnny Junk Food,” teach students about the benefits of eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the pitfalls of eating sugary snacks with empty calories.

“FoodPlay” begins with Coach Tom looking for Johnny Junk Food, who was auditioning for a juggling act. But Johnny was late for his audition because he didn’t have any energy. When he arrives, he overloads on sugary snacks, which cause him to run wild around the stage before crashing on the floor and falling asleep.

Coach Tom explains to the audience that skipping meals is “like trying to drive a car without any gas.”

He held a scarf in front of him and told the group that behind it was “something made entirely out of food.” The students guessed that it was chicken or cheese or pizza, but the answer was not something you eat.

“It’s me!” he said.

Throughout the nearly hourlong performance, which included lots of juggling and humorous sound effects, students laughed and shouted answers.

Annette Darnell, family resource coordinator for Hazelwood Elementary, said she was impressed with how the show captivated the audience.

“It really kept the kids’ interest,” she said. At Hazelwood, teachers have been introducing students to different healthy foods like papaya and star fruit, and Darnell said it’s important to introduce new foods to them while they’re young.

“They get locked in to one or two things; this broadens their horizons so they’re going to have healthier things to eat,” she said.

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