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YMCA visits teach importance of healthy eating, exercise

‘Better than candy’ declares one first grader

First grader Luis Ramirez gave a double thumbs up to the yogurt parfait he ate during a YMCA Nutrition in Action visit in early March to his school.

“It’s better than candy,” said Luis, a student at the Early Childhood Center. “It was my favorite part of the day.”

Fellow first grader Jesus Mendoza-Ahilon also enjoyed his snack.

“It was kind of good because of the cinnamon crunch and the apple sauce,” he said.

YMCA Nutrition in Action Educator Stacey Grauzer spent 40 minutes in each first grade class to promote physical activity and healthy eating to students and educators.

It was the first day of a planned six-week session as part of a grant funded in whole or in part by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Fitness Foundation. Two of the six weeks planned were completed before the mandatory shutdown aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

Grauzer said they aim to choose snacks the students will like, but also incorporate new items to keep them trying foods they normally wouldn’t.

“At the end of our series we give each student a recipe book of all the snacks we made together so they can share it at home,” she said.

Early Childhood Center first graders followed a monthly farmers market theme from the beginning of the year until schools closed in March.

“We have gone on various field trips… one to the Fulton Street Farmers Market where we bought fresh foods and tasted and learned about what farmers grow,” explained first grade teacher Nancy Stefano. “We also visited a farm (Schwallier’s Country Basket), picked apples and pumpkins and learned about how bees play an important role.”

Urban Roots mobile classroom came to the Early Childhood Center in October. Students learned how to plant seeds for the classroom and kept them watered so they could see the life cycle themselves.

“Our main focus with our lessons is to promote eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and drinking milk, and teaching our students about MyPlate (U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines on healthy eating) and striving for 60 minutes of exercise a day,” said Grauzer, who visits about 10 classes per week. “The students love our program.

“We try to maintain the relationships we have built with our schools and teachers so students will see us from kindergarten to fifth grade.”

Stefano said the visits were “something that’s fun for them; it’s hands-on. And eating is always a plus.”

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Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.

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