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Holyoke students learn to 'eat healthy, play hard'

Date: 11/24/2010

Nov. 24, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Students at the William R. Peck School were actually lining up for a healthy snack last week -- one that contained cheese, spinach, avocados and kidney beans.

And by the way they not only ate it, they enjoyed it.

The ingredients were part of vegetarian quesadillas that was featured at the fitness and nutrition fair kicking off "Empower Holyoke: Eat Healthy, Play Hard."

The yearlong program is an effort to improve the health of students and to educate parents, according to one of the organizers, Rebecca Engell, a student at Mount Holyoke College.

The morning-long event featured various tables and displays on subjects such as eating well, planting a vegetable garden, games and bicycle riding.

In the spring there will be a series of workshops for parents on health and nutrition with coordinated activities for their children, she said.

If the pilot program is successful, the organizers hope other city schools can adopt it.

Marie Carrier-Manley, the school's nurse practitioner, was running a table at which the students checked their height, weight and body mass. They also learned how to check their own heart rate.

Carrier-Manley explained to Reminder Publications the program is in response to Holyoke obesity rate as a city. Twenty-four percent of the residents are considered obsess.

"The more kids learn healthy habits and the younger, the better we will be," she said.

She said that part of the program is to incorporate exercise that doesn't require into every day activities. She added another part of the program is to teach students healthy eating habits and how to make better choices even when buying fast food.

Ana Jaramillio, the school wellness coordinator, was showing the students how easy and delicious healthy eating can be. She made quesadillas with fresh vegetables that were easily accessible to most people and approved by the WIC program.

Liz Budd of the Holyoke YMCA telling the students about the Leaders Club at the YMCA and about the bicycle program. Budd explained participants in the bicycle program attend classes on basic bike maintenance. For each class they attend, they earn points toward receiving a free bike of their own.

Budd said the bike program started July 6 and went from one student to 64 in two weeks. The program has served over 100 individuals from 62 families, she added.

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