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Kayla Colgrove

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Gage County Extension nutrition and health educator Kayla Colgrove leads a nutrition class during summer school at the Beatrice Middle School. The class was made possible thanks to grant funding.

Beatrice Middle School students attending summer school received a treat during the month of June, literally.

As part of their regular summer studies, the 23 students also got a taste for healthy eating as part of a 10-hour nutrition education program.

The class was led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Gage County Extension nutrition and health educator Kayla Colgrove, who taught the students healthy eating habits and provided healthy snacks throughout the month.

The class, which wraps up on Thursday, aims not only to teach youth better eating habits, but also to encourage them to take home what they learn.

“Our goal is to teach them about healthy eating and then have them go back to their families and talk to them about what they’ve learned and how to prepare snacks,” Colgrove said. “Whenever I provide a snack that’s homemade I always provide a recipe. So far their favorite has been frozen fruit cups.

"One thing that’s exciting for me is the next day when they came back to class and one of the girls said she made it for her family that night and they absolutely loved it. That’s always a good thing that they take it back to their family.”

This year is the first time the 4-H Food Smart Families program has been implemented in the middle school. The program was made available thanks to a $4,000 grant from National 4-H Congress and ConAgra Foods Foundation. A total of $150,000 was provided for the program statewide.

According to a press release from the National 4-H Congress, 16.2 million children live in households that lack the means to get nutritious food on a regular basis.

The program is structured to provide a 10-minute nutrition lesson, followed by physical activity or a game for the remainder of the class.

Healthy snacks are also provided to the students.

The Middle School teaches such practices through its health classes, but assistant principal David Kraus said it’s important to keep the lesson alive after the school year ends.

“(Colgrove) and I go to a lot of wellness conferences and had a conversation about summer school and I asked her if we have any kind of grants or anything to provide kids with physical activity,” he said. “She put together a great program with the education piece and the nutritional snacks for the kids. They literally eat it up. They’ve had a great time this summer with her and learned a lot, It’s not just providing snacks.”

The program will conclude with a family celebration event with a chance to win a blender and everyone receiving groceries as part of the grant.

Colgrove said when it comes to teaching healthy eating habits, it’s crucial to start the lesson at a young age.

“The younger that they learn it, the easier it will be later in life to incorporate healthy eating habits,” Colgrove said. “The more that they hear it, the more likely they’ll make the changes. It’s a great opportunity to be able to provide snacks. They learn about food budgeting and that it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget. We also try to provide a physical activity.”

The grant funding lasts until the end of October, and Colgrove hopes to provide another program for fourth through eighth graders.

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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