Keeping Mind and Body Fit (and Feeding Both Well)

The Teens for Food Justice team’s second-to-last service day of the 2013/14 school year brought New Beginnings Charter School families together for a day of mind and body fitness, ending with a big harvest giveaway of nutritious leafy greens. Best of all, the program was entirely the result of the creative energy and collaboration of our teen and mentor teams, who worked together to build practical, healthful, and fun-filled activities for the school community.

Jumping Jacks, Limbo — Let’s Get Those Heart Rates Up!

To kick off the afternoon of health and wellness activities, the teen team took us from the greenhouse to the gym for the first outreach event of the day. With the goal of demonstrating how families can do fun fitness activities together at home, volunteer mentor Dan O’Halloran used his skills as a fitness coach well. Whistle and mike in hand, he and the teens led close to 60 participants through an upbeat hour of stretching, jogging, jump-rope, hoola-hooping and more, pausing only to teach attendees how to find and measure their resting and active heart rates.

Reducing Stress, Relaxing the Mind

The best companion to a healthy body is a relaxed mind. After working to get their heart rates up, families joined mentor Paul Rowe, who worked with teen volunteers to lead a stress reduction and meditation workshop. Participants learned various stress-busting techniques and shared their own strategies for relaxing and reducing stress, including listening to music, reading, exercising, and focusing on the positive.

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Eat the Rainbow to Keep the Doctor Away: Healthy Snacks & Nutrition Games

Following an energetic hour of fitness, families visited the cafeteria for nutrition-themed fun and educational activities and, of course, recipe samples!

At one station, teens showed families the health benefits of eating colorful foods, focusing on areas of health that correspond with different colors of fruits and vegetables. Children then reviewed these new facts and shared their own knowledge in a nutrition-themed jeopardy game. At another station focused on healthy snacking and eating on-the-go, families sampled freshly-made hummus and bean dips and other tasty alternatives to packaged foods, and received tips and recipes to take home.

Another station featured science-based demonstrations, prepared by the teens, on the actual sugar content of soda, the health risks of artificial sweeteners, and how much faster white bread breaks down in your stomach compared to more substantial whole grain bread. These entertaining and educational science lessons were a hit with adults and kids, alike.

Last But Definitely Not Least: Home with the Harvest

One of the best parts of a service day is sending families home with bunches of produce picked fresh from the classroom farm. This month was our biggest harvest yet, yielding hardy collard greens, lettuces and multicolored Swiss chard.

At the end of the day, participants went home refreshed and energized, equipped with a market bag of leafy greens sufficient for a family meal and a new recipe to try.

Empowering Teens Feeding Communities Building a Healthy Sustainable Future