21 Day Challenge Helps ‘Kids Teach Kids' Healthy Eating

For three weeks, students and families all over North Texas have learned about eating better by taking the 21 Day Snack Challenge.

The program, designed by Medical City Children’s Hospital, also addresses the real challenge of finding healthy options while living in a food desert. Hundreds of children who live in the city of Dallas face this challenge every day.

Third grade students at Mount Auburn Elementary School participated in the program. Fresh produce was donated by Kroger and Fresh Point, and culinary students from Skyline High School created the healthy snacks and taught the elementary school students.

“It makes me feel good,” said 10th grader Lauren Glover.

Lauren is the head chef, culinary student from Skyline High School. Her snack puts a new twist on a classic cuisine.

“Today we’re making ‘Blackberry Sushi,’ and it taste so good. I like to show other people, especially younger students, how you can eat better,” she said.

The snack ingredients include apples and blackberries, wrapped in a tortilla with peanut butter and a drizzle of honey.

“We didn’t have these food growing up. We didn’t know about eating healthy. I just ate what I saw,  but now that I know better I’m eating better. Healthy foods helps your immune system to fight off sickness, it gives you energy. I wasn’t raised vegetarian, but I’m thinking about going vegetarian,” Lauren said.

"Our mission is to help children develop lifelong healthy eating habits starting with eating fruits and vegetables at snack time,’ said Jill Elliot, who is a dietary nutritionist with Medical City Children’s Hospital.

“There are a lot of families that live in the school boundaries of what the USDA labels as a food desert. We are combating two areas, but with the ‘Kids Teaching Kids’ part of the programs we are seeing great results. The high school students are so creative and the younger students love learning from them."

39 of Dallas ISD's 155 elementary schools are in food desert communities. Food deserts are defined as an area that is void of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole food. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers' markets, and healthy food providers.

The 21 Day Challenge program helps the students establish healthy eating habits, and opens their minds up to new foods. For many of the students it was their first time eating a black berry or kiwi (which were both in two of their snacks).

“There’s research that supports that dietary habits and academic achievement are directly linked,” said Jamie Berstein, the school nurse at Mount Auburn Elementary. “A lot of our students don’t have a choice. Their access to affordable healthy food options is limited. So I think sometimes their parents are doing the best they can,” she said.

“That’s why a lot of people in our communities have diseases like diabetes, and other health issues, because as kids we were never introduced to fresh vegetables and fruits. We’re learning now though, and I’m telling everyone,” said Lauren.

After the younger students graduate from the program their progress will be evaluated.

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