Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and exciting.
That was the message this week at an event held at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune where area students learned about eating healthy and exercising, understanding the role hunger plays in the community, and learning how food banks help feed people. It was all part of World Hunger Day Oct. 16.
About 140 fourth grade students from area schools attended the event to learn how to cook first-hand from several chefs. Activities included making smoothies, a visit to a garden to learn about fresh vegetables and how they are grown, and a healthy-food hopscotch.
Barbara Schulz, director of advocacy and programming for the FoodBank, said her organization has sponsored the annual event every year since it moved into its new location, at 3300 Route 66 in Neptune, in 2002.
“A lot of children need to learn about exercise, nutrition, and know how hunger can affect a community. They also learn about what the FoodBank does and how we get food into communities,” she said.
Schulz said the fourth grade level age group is a good target audience for such an event.
“They are open to this learning experience at a young age and we hope they learn about nutrition and hunger,” she said.
Nine-year-old Morgan Young, who goes to school in Bradley Beach, said she finds the day “fun and exciting.”
“Everybody is helping each other and it is fun. Plus we learn about bad foods and good foods, like eating fruits and vegetables versus eating chips and soda,” she said.
Morgan also sampled a blue smoothie made from fruits, like blueberries, bananas, cantaloupes and yogurt, calling it “amazing” and “bluetastic.”
Phil Cragg, an official with the American Culinary Federation’s Jersey Shore Chef’s Association, said his group has been participating in World Hunger Day since 1995.
“The idea is to bring awareness to the children about good nutrition and healthy eating habits.” He said.
The children also were shown videos and have question-and-answer sessions during a good chef/bad chef presentation.
“We hope the kids understand that more fresh fruits and vegetables are good for them and that they make healthy food choices. And, hopefully, they will take this message home to their parents,” he said.
Students from Asbury Park, Neptune and Bradley Beach participated in the program.