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A School That Teaches Children to Eat Better

This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from | About one-fifth of Americans age six to nineteen are considered overweight. To reduce that number, some schools are teaching children to make better food choices. The EW Stokes Public Charter School in Washington has started to include food topics in its third-grade math and English programs. The school formed a partnership with Seedling Projects, an environmental group in San Francisco, California.Peter Nalli is a curriculum director for a program called Farm to Desk. He says they are doing this in part to address the issue of childhood obesity. He says: "One of the main components of our program is our belief that if kids are exposed to positive and healthy messaging about food throughout the instructional day, that has the most potential to impact long-term change."Teacher Hannah Chen recently used food examples to teach eight and nine year olds in a math class how to make combinations. For example, they figured out the different combinations that could be made with a pizza and two toppings. School chef Makeisha Daye says the school buys most of its food from local farms. But the school has a garden for the students to grow some of the vegetables themselves. "The children, they love it," she says.Teacher Hannah Chen agrees. She says: "We have a salad bar at the school, and now the kids love the salad bar. They love the fruits and vegetables. So I think it is making a big difference in their lives." She says the third graders have also learned to read the sugar and fat content listed on food packages. She says the EW Stokes Public Charter School in Washington plans to expand the Farm to Desk program to other grades next year.Charter schools get public money but do not have to follow the same rules as traditional public schools. Many charter schools have specialized areas of study -- like Environmental Charter High School near Los Angeles. Students learn the importance of protecting the environment. Rigo Estrada says he used to be the kind of person who threw trash on the street. But now he has done things like clean up beaches and teach elementary school students about the importance of water conservation. He says he now knows that going green "actually is a really serious topic."Students learn from teachers and outside experts, like the owner of an environmentally friendly business. They also learn how to prepare a business plan that they can use to help pay for college. For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 12May2011)
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