Interactive program emphasizes nutrition, healthy food choices, physical activity
Originally published July 1, 2021 by Texas A&M Agrilife Today.
By Paul Schattenberg
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, EFNEP, of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is now offering a new Healthy Hero Adventures program as a fun way to teach youth about nutrition, making healthy food choices and physical activity.
“This is an innovative and fun approach to youth health and wellness education using personal instruction in addition to cartoon characters that represent different aspects of nutrition and exercise,” said Chelsea Bishop-Smith, EFNEP state program coordinator headquartered in Bryan-College Station. “It was developed to get kids more interested and engaged in the concepts and basics of healthier living.”
Research has shown that introducing health and wellness concepts to youth early on increases the likelihood they will apply those concepts to their own lives.
“In many instances, the kids also share the information with their parents, and the parents get more involved as a result,” she said.
What is Healthy Heroes Adventures?
The Healthy Heroes Adventures program is free and consists of six sessions focused on health and wellness topics. The lessons are presented by an EFNEP educator with the help of a team of cartoon heroes.
The interactive program is aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements for physical education, health and science and is designed for youth in kindergarten to fifth grade. Lessons can be presented virtually or by the local EFNEP educator.
Bishop-Smith said lessons are typically one hour, but their length can be adjusted if needed.
“This program is intended to be flexible, and we will work with program partners to modify the program to fit their requirements,” she said.
A request for the program can be made at https://bit.ly/3zVVIQC. To find the local EFNEP educator in your area, go to https://efnep.tamu.edu.
Healthy Heroes Adventure lessons
The Healthy Hero Adventures program covers basic nutrition and MyPlate dietary guidelines as well as food safety and physical activity in a kid-friendly manner using cartoon heroes.
Each lesson introduces food groups and builds nutrition knowledge, including identifying foods in each group and the roles they play. They also introduce youth to the Fight Bac principles of food safety, as well as label reading and promoting physical activity.
“Each grade level builds on the knowledge learned from the last one, and visuals allow the lesson to be taught in a variety of settings,” Bishop-Smith said.
“The cartoon health superheroes make the instruction more approachable and appealing to the younger kids,” Bishop-Smith said. “They represent and introduce kids to various aspects of nutrition, health and wellness.”
The characters are:
- Active Adam, who shows the importance of physical activity and staying active at least one hour each day.
- Safety Sam, who helps teach how to keep food safe and prevent bacteria from spreading.
- Captain Carrot, who shows the nutritional benefits of eating a colorful variety of vegetables.
- Mango Man, who educates kids about the vitamins and minerals in fruit to help the body.
- Mystic Milk, who teaches how dairy products help build strong bones.
- Professor Grain, who shows how grains provide energy and fiber to the body.
- Strong Sally, who tells about protein-rich foods with nutrients for body growth and repair.
Each series will include at least two recipe demonstrations and tastings, enhancement items for the kids to take home and graduation certificates delivered to participants upon completion of the series.
Bishop-Smith said the program helps fulfill the EFNEP mission of providing practical and useful nutrition information to youth and adults.
“These lessons provide young people with many of the basics relating to how different foods provide our bodies with vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients,” she said. “They help young people understand the essentials of nutrition and physical exercise and how healthy eating and staying active can provide them with a better quality of life.”