Federal dollars help Heartland schools fight obesity

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

MOUNT VERNON, IL (KFVS) - The fight against childhood obesity in the Heartland gets a boost from the federal government. Recently, several schools received funds to teach students healthy eating habits.

One of the schools is Benjamin Franklin Early Education Center in Mount Vernon.

"It allows them (teachers) to teach nutrition and also expose them to some food they are not familiar with," said Benjamin Franklin Early Education Center Principal Alletta Lawrence.

Lawrence says the lessons come during the snack time.  In one preschool classroom students get three types of apples and some apple juice.  The teacher then explains where the fruit comes from and about other foods made from apples.  Lawrence says each snack time can bring a different fruit or vegetable.

"Sweet peas we had the other day," Lawrence said.  "A lot of the children had only seen peas out of the jar and not in the pod and they were interested in taking them apart and eating both parts of the sweet pea."

Exposure to new food is not the only goal.  Lawrence says the hope is students will start to make smarter choices when it comes to what they chow down on. Lessons, Lawrence says are possible thanks to the new federal funds.

"If children are introduced to foods that are healthy for them at this age level, they're going to start, it's just going to be a normal part of their eating habits," Lawrence said.

The intermediate school in Mount Vernon is set to start the program next week. Schools in Cairo and Mounds also received funds for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program.

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