(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Two hundred students from 29 Cincinnati and Cleveland area schools recently got an opportunity of a lifetime when they met with NFL football players on the grid iron. The students took part in Fuel Up to Play 60 summits sponsored by the NFL and the American Dairy Association Mideast.
The in-school wellness program emphasizes the importance of good nutrition and physical activity every day to help prevent obesity. Government statistics show nearly 1 in 5 children in America is overweight and faces increased risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. They could even have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
During the summits, Cincinnati area students met Bengals Safety Chinedum Ndukwe and mascot Who Dey as they participated in leadership and team building exercises on the field at Paul Brown Stadium. Cleveland area students got the same opportunity to work out with Browns Offensive Tackle Joe Thomas and mascot Chomps at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Both players talked with the students about getting 60 minutes of exercise every day and fueling their bodies with nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.
“Make sure every meal you have, the plate has all the colors you want on there – the greens, the reds and not only the pastas and grains and things like that, but you’ve got to get that dairy and those fruits and vegetables,” says Browns Offensive Tackle Joe Thomas.
“We want these kids to continue to take care of themselves, eat healthy, drink milk and help their bones develop because at such an early age, it’s so vital,” says Bengals Safety Chinedum Ndukwe.
The students who attended the summits are now serving as Fuel Up to Play 60 ambassadors at their schools, helping to lead fellow students in the 2010-2011 Fuel Up to Play 60 Challenge, a competition among schools nationwide. The program is designed to empower children to take control of their health by making positive, long-term changes and to inspire their friends to do the same. The student leaders work with an adult advisor in the school to create healthy eating and physical activity “plays” for their schools. Some of these strategies include school-wide walking clubs, menu makeovers, breakfast clubs, taste-and-vote food programs and in-class activity breaks. Each day, students go to an online Playbook and track their exercise and the food they’ve eaten, earning points for making healthy choices. Students and schools with top scores earn rewards and prizes.
Joy Schaffer, a 9th grader, told fellow students at the summit how Fuel Up to Play 60 has changed her life.
“It made me more active and I realized I wasn’t getting enough milk and some days I wasn’t exercising enough so it really helped me think about it. It made me put more effort into becoming a healthier person and living my life in a way that will help me in sports and in the future,” said Schaffer.
In its first year, more than 60,000 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 nationwide. This year, more than 2,700 Ohio schools are participating in the program. To learn more, check out www.fueluptoplay60.com.