Overlook Medical Center - Hooray for 5 a Day Program

Overlook Medical Center’s Department of Community Health, in collaboration with the elementary schools in their service area, has developed on program for first and second grades on the importance of eating five fruits and vegetables a day. We realized that a barrier in presenting subject matter such as this is just keeping the attention, especially of younger children, and the retention of the material. At just the mention of fruits and vegetables, eyes tend to glaze over. This is not true with our program, called “Hooray for 5 a Day.” It was developed and is conducted by a health educator and child life specialist from Overlook Medical Center. The program is a Bingo game with the boards filled with different fruits and vegetables. Each choice has some questions and answers, for example, calcium in broccoli, vitamin C in oranges, the red and purple grapes are healthier, and yes, a tomato is a fruit. When someone has crossed off all 12 fruit and vegetable squares on the Bingo sheet, they shout “Hooray for 5 a Day” and a small prize is awarded. Because it is evident that family involvement is important, a take-home piece is included in this program so families can help their children track their fruits and vegetables and become involved in the process.

What is it?

Overlook Medical Center’s Department of Community Health, in collaboration with the elementary schools in their service area, has developed on program for first and second grades on the importance of eating five fruits and vegetables a day. We realized that a barrier in presenting subject matter such as this is just keeping the attention, especially of younger children, and the retention of the material. At just the mention of fruits and vegetables, eyes tend to glaze over. This is not true with our program, called “Hooray for 5 a Day.” It was developed and is conducted by a health educator and child life specialist from Overlook Medical Center. The program is a Bingo game with the boards filled with different fruits and vegetables. Each choice has some questions and answers, for example, calcium in broccoli, vitamin C in oranges, the red and purple grapes are healthier, and yes, a tomato is a fruit. When someone has crossed off all 12 fruit and vegetable squares on the Bingo sheet, they shout “Hooray for 5 a Day” and a small prize is awarded. Because it is evident that family involvement is important, a take-home piece is included in this program so families can help their children track their fruits and vegetables and become involved in the process.

Who is it for?

Because of the importance of early intervention in the development of healthy eating habits, this program is targeted to first- and second-grade students.

Why do they do it?

Statistics in the Overlook service area parallel those in the state of New Jersey showing body mass index (BMI) measurements of elementary-age students registering 20 percent as being obese and 18 percent being overweight. In view of these alarming numbers, it is apparent that there is a lack of knowledge about healthy eating in many young children. Overlook Medical Center has determined that presentations such as the “Hooray for 5 a Day,” presented in a way that will keep their attention, is important in getting the message to be retained and be a part of their everyday lives.

Impact

Teachers and parents alike have applauded this program. The teachers incorporate the teachings into their curricula, and the parents can become involved at home with the take-home chart and instructions. School nurses are using BMIs from the beginning of the program and comparing them with BMIs taken at six-month intervals to coincide with the timing of the various classes. In 20 out of the 36 schools in the project, the BMIs were down from January through June 2011. We are also encouraged by teacher reports that with further education on this subject in the classroom, the children know the characteristics and health benefits of the various fruits and vegetables.

Due to the success of this program, new programs on nutrition have been developed for other grade levels. “Snack Attack” is presented to second and third grades and deals with making healthy snack choices. Information on heart health and the importance of healthy eating and fitness is given to fourth and fifth grades.

Contact: Joyce Passen
Manager, Community Health
Telephone: 908-522-5355
E-mail: joyce.passen@atlantichealth.org

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