Eat Your Greens 2: Open day at Fairview Elementary

Robin and Julie from the Integrated Nutrition Education Program at an open day at Fairview


Nutrition education also means educating parents on what’s good for kids.

Host Intro:

According to the American Public Health Association, food advertising accounts for more than half of the thousands of television commercials children view each year. When bombarded with slick commercials and fancy promotions it?s hard for kids to make the right nutritional choices.



I like to go to Burger King the most because there are toys and there?s a solving puzzle now in the fries and I can tear it off now with a little coin, and I got an apple pie, I?m a winner, twice?..


That?s Carlos, a fourth grader at McGlone Elementary in Denver.  But all hope is not lost because as we heard in the first part of our nutrition series Eat Your Greens, Carlos also enjoyed eating the salad he made in nutrition class in school.  In today?s installment Maeve Conran explores the subject of nutrition education a little more and visits another school trying to improve students? eating habits.


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Full Text:

Narration: The fourth graders I met at McGlone Elementary seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the nutrition classes they?ve been taking all year.

Jose; I learned that if you eat good healthy foods your body gets stronger and if you eat fats oils and sweets your body gets weaker and if you eat lots of sugar, your sugar pressure keeps getting higher and then you get diabetes.

Narration: The students were on their best behavior the day I went to visit?and when faced with a reporter with a microphone asking questions, everyone was very enthusiastic about eating healthy foods?so I decided to ask my own panel of experts about fourth graders eating habits. Experts who can be relied upon to tell me exactly what they think.

SAM: My name is Sam and I am 9 and ?.

Narration: My nephew Sam a fourth grader and his brother Jack a second grader have wildly different opinions on eating their greens.

Jack: I just hate them they just are green and horrible.

Narration: Sam on the other hand?.

Sam: I like vegetables because they?re healthy for you and carrots make you have good eyesight and vegetables are more healthy than a Big Mac.

Narration: So when faced with such polar opposite tastes in the same family, let alone in the same classroom, how can a school go about educating our kids on what?s best for them to eat. Let alone persuade them to make the best choices in the school cafeteria.  Janet Bodner is director of operations for the Denver Public School food and nutrition department.  That means she is responsible for menu development at all the K through 12 Denver Public Schools. No easy feat considering that young children are notoriously food phobic and older students can often walk down the street at lunchtime and buy a Big Mac.

Janet 1:
it really takes a lot of work to plan a menu that the children can recognize and will want to eat.

Narration: This is where the Integrated Nutrition program plays a part.  The theory is that by exposing children to new foods they have not seen before, the child is more likely to choose that in the cafeteria.  According to Janet Bodner, the theory makes sense.

Janet 2
What we tried to do this year, we all sat down together and we looked at their information and all their recipes, and the recipes because the students are making them are simple.  So we thought it would be fun to see if it would give us another offering in the cafeteria to take some of the recipes that the students have made and might recognize and if we serve them in the cafeteria are they going to eat better because ?Oh I made that in school?.

Narration: The initial scheme in 3 schools last year proved to be so successful it will now expand to more schools.
But schools are not the only influence on children?s eating habits.  Eating habits of parents are passed down through generations, along with diseases associated with poor diet like diabetes and obesity. . So when children are eating vegetables at school but going home to pizza, are all the efforts wasted?  I went to another school involved in the Nutrition Program to find out?..

Ambient sound of open day at Fairview Elementary Open Day.

Narration: Fairview Elementary School is in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Denver, right off the Interstate 25 highway, and close to downtown.  Every town has a neighborhood like this, on the wrong side of the tracks.  No Whole Foods Market here, you?re more likely to step over broken beer bottles strewn on the ground. According to the 2000 census 74% of children in this neighborhood live in poverty.  ?  It seems like an unlikely place to teach students and their parents about good nutrition. This is exactly the type of school the Integrated Nutrition Program likes to target. At a family open day at the end of last years school year

sound of interaction at table

Fades under narration:

Narration: Robin Warner is Program Nutritionist for the Integrated Nutrition Program.  She does outreach to parents to communicate what the children are doing  in nutrition class. She reaches out to parents at open days like this one at Fairview Elementary by showing how to make healthy snacks such as trail mix with dried fruits and nuts.

Trail mix
Robin: Hi there, you want some trail mix?

Narration: Lorene Wilson has a daughter in first grade at Fairview.

she comes home and wants to make everything they make in there.  She wanted to make the smoothie they made and there is some other stuff she wanted to make, I don?t know.  She?s always taking me to the store ?Buy some fruits?.

Narration: Lorene says her daughter used to like to snack on fatty foods, cheetos, and chips, but now asks for fruits instead.  Not having any experience with nutrition, Lorene liked the materials the school sent home.

They sent home the food pyramid and all kinds of other things, recipes.

Maeve: Was that stuff you?d ever heard of before?

Lorene: Not really?.I never had anything to do with nutrition.

Narration: Lack of parental knowledge on even basic nutrition is one of the hurdles the program tries to overcome.  Many of the families of student in the nutrition program have diets which are very low in fruits and vegetables.  Robin Warner explains why.

Robin Warner 2
It?s certainly economics, it?s also convenience it?s a lot of things.

Narration: Ironically a typical diet in Mexico is high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in fast food. When these families move to the US however, the trend reverses, reflecting the low cost and easy access to junk food.  To reach out to the high number of Hispanic families in the area the program uses informational materials that are available in both Spanish and English.

Robin Warner:
we try to give them as much information that is linked to the Nutrition Education that the children are receiving, so the messages can be reinforced.

Narration: Christina Wilson is the grown up sister of two students who attend Fairview.

Christina Wilson
3 recipes that we cooked in the class, we took it home and cooked it for our family couscous

Narration: She volunteers to help out during the Nutrition Classes.

Christina: the Milkshake and one vegetable salad I think it was.  We?ve had couscous a couple of times now, it?s real good.

Narration: It seems obvious that parents would appreciate schools teaching good eating habits to their children, but when so many are faced with every day challenges such as unemployment, language barriers, even access to a grocery store, good nutrition seems low on the list of daily priorities.  So how can individuals, families and indeed whole communities overcome these barriers to have a nutritionally decent diet, something we are all entitled to.  Find out how one community tackles this situation in the next installment of eat your greens.