Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter program focused on nutrition and healthy living begins at four schools

Written by Zach Elkin
AmeriCorps Program Manager

It was a seemingly normal Tuesday afternoon at Noyes Education Campus in Northeast DC. At dismissal, many students journeyed home or to a friend’s house; others stayed behind to complete homework or head to the gym for basketball.

But returning and new DC SCORES poet-athletes soon began to gather in the hallway, anticipating the start of winter programming for the first time ever at their school. The DC SCORES program had been on break since the Poetry Slam! in December, and students were eager to get back into action.

However, this winter students would enjoy a new component in addition to soccer play: nutrition.

Coach Shakeria and Coach Terrell began the afternoon leading an activity called “Mirror Image.” This fun game challenged pairs of students to practice shadowing each other’s movements and was accompanied by a discussion on how it feels to be a leader and follower, what happens when someone makes decisions for you, and how one’s personal values shape his/her goals.

Students later played a twist on the popular charades game, where students took turns acting out a personal value for the group to guess. Later this week, Noyes students will make peanut butter and “fruit-wiches” as they discuss why the snack is a healthy choice, what can be added or subtracted to make it healthier, and how the snack can be altered at home.

For the first time in three years, four teams are participating in the Power of Choice (USDA created) program that teaches youth how to make healthy eating and fitness decisions. The interactive, six-week program, which commenced this week at Bancroft ES, Noyes EC, and MacFarland MS (and next week at Brightwood EC), teaches students how to read food labels and safely prepare food, examines the benefits of eating healthy food, and gives students weekly hands-on practice preparing nutritious snacks.

DC SCORES is fortunate to have this winter’s program run almost exclusively by our AmeriCorps coaches, who volunteer their time and effort to making sure students are learning and having fun after school. AmeriCorps coaches are teaming up in pairs to instruct students using the Power of Choice curriculum and incorporate their educational and professional expertise into the workshops.

It is critical for students to receive these lessons and experience first-hand the processes involved in making smart food choices. With the obesity rate among children on the rise and an unforgivable lack of healthy food options in underserved communities, showing students how they can be in control of their eating habits may be the best way to get the message across and see real change.

Aside from the knowledge and skills students gain during Power of Choice, they continue to form positive relationships with their peers and coaches, and stay active during the time of year when many youth resort to eating larger portions of unhealthier foods and spend their after school time at home on the couch.

In general, when parents, principals, community members, and countless supporters talk about “DC SCORES,” the conversation highlights an exciting youth soccer game, memorable Poetry Slam! performance, or school event that celebrated a team’s service to their neighborhood.

This winter, stop by a participating school and check out students learning to make smoothies, cereal sundaes and pocket pita sandwiches. Sooner than later, when DC SCORES is mentioned, admirers will be hard-pressed not to include a memory from the winter season.

Winter programming is taking place from January 17 through March 2, so feel free to contact us if you would like to visit a school!

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