Federal program gives kids a Head Start on nutrition
Students at Webster Parish Head Start's Mother Goose Land school were taught important facts about exercise and nutrition through a federally-funded program operated by Louisiana State University AgCenter.
AgCenter Nutrition Educator LaDonna Chreene visited classes recently to talk to children about the importance of eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.
"I'm funded by a grant through the USDA (United Stated Department of Agriculture)," she said. "The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – the old food stamps program."
SNAP-Ed is a program intended to help SNAP eligible people to make healthier decisions when buying food.
Chreene works with audiences of all ages like community groups, Webster Parish Community Services, elderly fixed income groups and schools like Mother Goose Land across Webster and Claiborne parishes.
"The audience that I work with must justifiably be economically disadvantaged," Chreene said. "They need to have at least 50 percent SNAP eligible or SNAP recipients.
"With the children this year, we are using 'Little Organ Annie and The Organwise Guys,'" she said. "We're teaching about the organs inside their bodies and how nutrition affects them."
Children are taught how different kinds of foods and levels of exercise affect their energy and ability to focus. For instance, Chreene encouraged them to get up and exercise during commercial breaks if they spend a lot of time watching TV.
Chreene said she has 12 different lessons for children to choose from, and hopes to reach their parents through take-home handouts. Her previous visit to Mother Goose Land dealt the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.
"I realize that children aren't the decision makers in the house," she said. "However, they do have an influence when their parents go out and shop for food."
Hope is also that informed children will ask for healthier foods while at the grocery store with their parents.
"Childhood obesity is a big focus these days," she said. "Nutrition education has to start young and hopefully they'll have it instilled in them when they start making the decisions themselves."
Subjects that Chreene covers include food safety, food shopping and basic cooking techniques.