Students get lessons in health at fitness fair

Published May 24, 2013 at 10:48 am (Updated May 24, 2013 at 10:48 am)

South Fayette Middle School student Lizzy Henry said she tries to eat healthy most of the time, but it isn’t always easy. When asked if eating healthy is fun, her reply was an honest “no.”

She, along with about 500 eighth grade students from seven middle schools ranging from the South Fayette School District to Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and three Propel schools, gathered May 22 in the South Fayette High School gymnasium to take part in an interactive health and fitness program offered through UPMC.

The program was the second in as many years according to Tricia Wood, director of food and nutritional services at South Fayette. She is also on the UPMC committee that promotes the program “Make Me Whole. . . Body, Mind and Soul.”

The program emphasizes the importance of healthy snacking, eating and exercise. During the three-hour program, students watched nutritional and fitness presentations, visited 15 separate vendor stations that offered healthy foods like chips and fruit, and enjoyed an interactive fitness concert.

Winifred Torbert, program director from UPMC, said, “We want them to enjoy eating properly and to snack responsibly, so they are not taking in too much sugar in the summer. I’m hoping what they learn in the school year they use in the summer, so they can live healthier lives.”

Torbert said South Fayette district officials, including Superintendent Billie Rondinelli, are supportive.

“They encourage healthy lifestyles for all of the students,” Torbert said. During the first program the previous school year, Torbert said 210 students attended.

Luckily for Lizzy, she is naturally thin, as are her three friends – Kate Russo, Hanna Schmitt and Francesca Siudela – who were waiting in line for a few of the nutritional offerings from vendors.

Francesca said she is able to maintain her petite figure through all types of dance. She enjoyed the presentations and displayed a wrapper from a cereal bar she consumed.

The four South Fayette eighth-graders said while none battled a weight problem, they did have a few friends who were somewhat overweight. They all agreed they encouraged those friends to eat healthier.

If her mother offers Kate’s family a less than nutritional meal, she said she would say, “This is gross. I’ll make something else.” One of her favorite vendor freebies was a bag of healthy chips.

“I try to be a better eater as it makes my body healthier,” Kate said.

Lizzy enjoyed the strawberry mango side kick snack before admitting to snacking on chips and fruit at night. “Learning to eat healthy will affect you in the future,” she said.

Hanna displayed a Hippie Chip bag with the contents eaten. She said the healthy snack was good, before admitting her favorite snack at night is ice cream.

Torbert said the program is actually a four-part series encompassing nutrition, mental health and well being, exercise and dental health, all to encourage youngsters to eat well to live longer.

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