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Grant supports nutrition lessons in Delta schools
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Children in 65 Mississippi Delta area elementary schools will learn about nutrition through an innovative curriculum funded by a grant aimed at preventing childhood obesity.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is providing $1.57 million for the five-year grant to support nutrition programs in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Childhood obesity is one of four key issues being addressed by a tri-state Extension Service "memorandum of understanding" signed May 15.
"This program mainly targets Mississippi school children in Delta counties," said Deborah Little, Family Nutrition Program accountability manager with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. In addition to the Mississippi schools, the grant provides funding for 10 schools in Louisiana and 10 in Arkansas.
"The OrganWise Guys Take 10! Project" curriculum features puppets that represent different parts of the body. Students learn what function the different body parts perform, how nutrition relates to those different body parts and how it impacts overall health.
Integral to the program's success is incorporating physical activity into normal daily activities, which teaches children to make exercise and good health a priority every day.
"We encourage teachers to have three 10-minute sessions each day, which provides the students with an additional 30 minutes of physical activity," Little said. "The idea is to get kids more active and to help teachers do it in a fun way."
For example, third-graders may recite spelling words while marching in place or performing jumping-jacks. Whatever the activity, the important thing is that children get the exercise they need to help combat the growing problem of childhood obesity.
"The students love the Take 10! curriculum. If a teacher doesn't remember that it's time for a 10-minute session, the students will remind them," Little said. "And once the teacher sees it can be an integral part of the classroom curriculum, everyone will benefit."
Three daily 10-minute sessions is the goal of the Take 10! curriculum. At a minimum, teachers are asked to have at least three sessions per week.
Michelle Lombardo, president of Georgia-based Wellness Inc., developed the Take 10! curriculum in response to the high rates of obesity and diagnosed diabetes throughout the United States and particularly in the South. Family Nutrition Program staff at MSU saw the value of the Take 10! program in teaching Mississippi children the importance of daily physical activity and good nutrition.
A pilot version of the Take 10! project involved students at four Mississippi Delta schools -- Milestone, West Bolivar, South Delta and James Rosser elementary schools. In addition to the three 10-minute daily sessions of physical activity, the curriculum uses the "OrganWise Guys" children's books, two 10-minute videos and an assembly program for all grades at participating schools.
The program also emphasizes the importance of increasing daily calcium intake and consuming five fruits and vegetables each day.
The success of the pilot program will allow at least six other Delta schools to take part in the curriculum this school year. That number will significantly increase in the fall of 2004, with probably 30 or 40 schools participating.
Lombardo trained MSU Food Nutrition Program assistants in using the Take 10! curriculum during an August meeting on the Starkville campus. Extension area agents and some county directors will also be involved in training for the program.
The grant was actually awarded to the Mississippi Food Network, a collection of state bodies that address public health issues. MSU's Family Nutrition Program is part of that network, and it has taken the lead in getting the nutrition program started.
The FNP will provide classroom teachers with the Take 10! Curriculum. Wellness Inc. provides the "OrganWise Guys Younger Years Series," which includes four soft-cover books for children ages 4 to 8, teacher activities and character figures. The OrganWise Guys figures include Hardy Heart, Calci M. Bone and Windy the Lungs.
Wellness also provides each school's media center with hardback copies of the OrganWise Guys books, a 30-minute motivational health assembly for the students and two 10-minute educational videos.
The Kellogg Foundation is funding the development and production of the OrganWise Guys videos, one focusing on consuming five fruits and vegetables daily and one focusing on bone health.
Contact: Dr. Deborah Little, (662) 325-0623