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Nutrition Educators Preach The Gospel Of Viva Health

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Wendy Rigby
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Texas Public Radio
Viva Health educators serve aguas frescas to the children learning about the city's new Viva Health campaign. The idea is to convince them to drink more water.

Hundreds of children taking part in this year’s Parks and Recreation Summer Youth Program in San Antonio are doing more than just arts, crafts and games. They’re learning some life lessons designed to combat our city’s major health issues.

At Mead Elementary School on the city’s north side, fifth and sixth graders are talking about what they like to eat for breakfast.

"I eat bacon, eggs and pancakes," said one 11-year-old enthusiastically.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Noah Mubiru shows the plate he drew with foods he thinks create a healthy meal.

  

They’re using crayons to draw on a paper plate...illustrating their portions for various meals. 

More than 800 children taking part in Summer Youth Programs around the city are learning lessons from the city’s newest nutrition campaign called Viva Health.

Registered dietitian Anne Heine explains the three basic tenets of Viva Health. "Half your plate, fruits and vegetables, every meal, every day," she outlined. "For portion control, use a smaller plate. And drink water, not sugary drinks."

Those concepts might sound like a hard sell to pre-teens. But many of them, like Noah Mubiru, 11, come to the Parks and Recreation program as a lifestyle choice.

"I like to come here so that I can learn and be physically active and not just stay home and watch TV and do video games," Mubiru stated.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Anaias Mendoza was among the fifth and sixth graders learning about the Viva Health campaign at Mead Elementary School.

  

When asked to draw his version of a healthy meal, he created a plate with s

pinach, steak, sushi and fish. Heine said many of Noah’s peers don’t make such nutritional choices. "We know that at least one third of children are obese. And obese children are more likely to become obese adults."

A dozen educators give this program twice a day for five weeks to preach the Viva Health gospel of water intake and good food choices.

Taylor Brown, 10, said it reinforced what she knows. "I like to eat like grapes and fruit and vegetables," the fifth grader claimed. "If you like eat junk food you’re going to be way too overweight."

As part of the goal to get kids to stay better hydrated and avoid sodas and energy drinks, the educators serve them aguas frescas…water infused with fresh fruits… to show them how to make an easy, tasty alternative.

The summer youth initiative is just one way the city is hoping to spread this nutrition message aimed at lowering the rate of chronic health problems in San Antonio including diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

The teachers empower the kids to share what they learn. "We stress that they are teachers too," Heine added. "We want them to take these messages home to their family and friends.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Interactive lessons encourage children to share what they know about healthy eating while learning new facts.

  

Anaias

Mendoza, 11, got the message loud and clear. "

Drinking a lot of water. Not eating a lot. Not eating a lot of sugar," she recited.

The hope is those words will turn into actions.