A simple homework assignment started it all. Sabina M. Mosso teaches kindergartners and preschoolers in special education and regular classes at the Anna Boyd Child Development Center in Columbia, South Carolina. In the fall of 1997, a nutrition professor in Mosso's graduate program instructed her to go back to her classroom and make a change -- improve student nutrition. That wouldn't be an easy task by any standards. "These kids were bringing a bunch of garbage to school," she recalled.
Mosso decided the most effective strategy was establishing a new school-wide healthful snack policy. She received the endorsements of the school administration and her fellow teachers and turned her attention to getting parents on board.
Preschool and kindergarten teacher Sabina Mosso (center) and classroom assistant Carolyn Wilson snack with students on vegetables at a party honoring Mosso, who was named Dole Food Company's 1999 "Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year."
Mosso and other staff members offered evening parent workshops about nutrition so efforts would not end in the classroom.
That homework assignment led to additional changes in other classrooms. Teachers wanted to know how Mosso had been able to get young students to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, so she trained colleagues from 17 other school districts at in-service workshops. In addition to leading workshops, Mosso shared her strategies at other educational seminars.
Would you like to improve the nutritional quality of your students' diets? Sabina Mosso has some tips for you! Read "Tips for Improving Student Nutrition" in the sidebar to this story.
Last year, the Dole Food Company, sponsors of Dole Food Company's Nutrition Program, named Mosso its "Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year."
Sabina Mosso, named Dole Food Company's 1999 "Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year," accepts her award. Behind Mosso is a produce display set up for the party Dole gave in her honor.
|Mosso's reign will soon end. Dole will recognize Pauline Kalenik, a Buffalo teacher, as an outstanding teacher for 2000.|
Another parent workshop included students and taught them and their parents simple ways of preparing healthful meals. "We have a real close relationship with our parents on a daily basis, either verbally or written," Mosso said. "That rapport is the real reason for our success."
Helping kids choose a more healthful lifestyle is a tough assignment. According to a 1996 report, "What We Eat In America," by the United States Department of Agriculture, only 26 percent of all children eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The same report states that about half of the nation's children do not eat even one serving of fruit daily. French fries and potato chips make up a third of the vegetables kids eat. Other studies have found that more than 84 percent of children and adolescents eat too much total fat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After Mosso established the healthful snack policy in March 1998, she gave a sticker to each student who brought a healthful snack to school. Some students had trouble complying with the policy. One student was so dismayed that she hadn't yet received a sticker, she begged for one. Mosso told the student "If you go home and bring in a [healthful] snack, I'll give you a sticker." The student's response helped prompt the parent education workshops: "You have to talk to my mommy. My mommy doesn't know what a [healthful] snack is."
Mosso and the school staff conducted four workshops throughout the school year. The workshops explained the policy regarding healthful snacks and suggested ways to interest children in making the leap into the produce aisle. Mosso suggested that parents include their children in the selection process: Take them to the grocery store and let them pick out the fruits and vegetables they like.The parents loved the new policy, Mosso recalled. They told her that their children were asking for more fruits and vegetables at home. Even parents had become more aware of what they ate and added more fruits and vegetables to their diets. She tells people "Nutrition can't be a unit; it has to be ongoing. It's a life skill and it has to be integrated on a continual basis."
Mosso points to lifestyle changes as part of the proof a change is being made. "The ultimate proof was when a student brought in a birthday fruit tray instead of the traditional birthday cake," she said.
Students from the Anna Boyd Child Development Center in Columbia, South Carolina, check out a bag of goodies from Dole.
Although receiving a national award honored her, Mosso isn't sitting on her laurels. This year, she's added another component for more healthful living. Mosso's lesson plans now include aerobic exercise each day. Parents and her students' siblings even get to join in on the fun at a local gym one evening per month for no charge as Mosso leads them in an aerobic exercise class!
Requests for Dole's Five a Day teaching materials should be made on school letterhead to:
Dole Nutrition Program, 155 Bovet Road, Suite 476, San Mateo, CA 94402.
You may also fax your request to (650) 570-5250.
*Teachers must specify the quantity and types of materials desired.
Teachers may request charts for their students, which come with 42 reusable stickers. The charts help students keep track of the number of fruits and vegetables they eat each day.
Request a Kids Cookbook for simple fruit and vegetable recipes kids can make. The cookbook has easy directions and clear illustrations.
A musical tape, Jammin' 5 A Day Songs and a performance kit with another tape of songs, sheet music, and the text of a play based on a evening news broadcast are also available.
The centerpiece of the Dole Nutrition Program is its 5 A Day Adventures CD-ROM. Fruit and vegetable characters talk and sing on this interactive computer software program. The disc contains six educational units, cross-curricular lesson plans, a glossary, recipes, and other materials to print.A fellow teacher introduced Mosso to the Dole program. She recalled being very excited to learn the company provided free materials, including a CD-ROM, charts, stickers, and music tapes to promote better nutrition. Although Dole gears its program for third-grade students, Mosso adapted it for her younger students. Mosso used all of these materials, which she said made it easier for her to get the message across to her students. She also taught her students an abbreviated version of the 5 A Day Live play. Students performed some of the songs dressed in fruit and vegetable costumes!
Since 1991, Dole has spent approximately $20 million to promote better nutrition for children, according to Lorelei DiSogra, director of nutrition and health at Dole. About 60 percent of all elementary schools in the United States use the CD-ROM, she said. Nutrition education is a serious issue, noted DiSogra. "Children are eating only half of the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day,"
The goal of the program is to help students and their families make lasting changes. "This is when eating habits develop and if children learn [healthful] habits, they will carry those [healthful] habits into adulthood," DiSogra explained.
The Dole program promotes the goals of the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. "I think [Dole] has done a phenomenal job," said Gloria Stables, program director of 5 A Day for Better Health at the National Cancer Institute. "They have taken it on as a major effort. It's a nice, stand-alone program that fits in very nicely with the partnership."
Article by Diane Weaver Dunne
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