West Jasper, T.S. Boyd and Sipsey are among the 65 rural schools in the state participating in “Body Quest: Food of the Warrior.”
The 17-week program uses the popularity of iPads and anime to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.
“We want them to feel comfortable and know that fruits and vegetables aren’t scary,” said Emma Anne Hallman, a Nutrition Education agent for ACES in Walker and Marion counties.
“Body Quest” was developed by ACES faculty over a three-year period and underwent a pilot test in spring 2011. It is funded by ACES and the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
The stars of “Body Quest” are the anime characters: Body Doctor (fruits), Shining Rainbow (vegetables), Muscle Max (protein), Graino Supa (grain), Fiberlicious (fiber) and Super Slurper (water) and their archenemy, Trans Fat Cat.
The students interact with these health warriors in weekly lessons through seven iPad apps. The characters are also featured on posters, card decks, T-shirts, power bands and in other materials.
Hallman also provides the students with samples of fruits and vegetables in hopes that they will consider making them a regular part of their diet.
“We want them to learn why a tomato is good for them so that when they see one, they will want to eat it,” Hallman said.
Several tools are used to determine the effectiveness of “Body Quest,” including a “What’s for Lunch?” survey in which the students report their eating habits during the program period.
Assessments of the students’ preferences and knowledge of fruits and vegetables are also given at the beginning and end of the term.
Initial results from last year’s pilot test showed a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption because of “Body Quest.”
Hallman said the program has been popular with students and teachers.
The children are also encouraged to discuss what they are learning with their parents, who are sometimes just as scared of trying new fruits and vegetables.
“Third grade is a great time for this program because they’re not set in their ways yet as far as eating habits and they’re at an age where they can go home and talk with their parents about purchasing some of these things,” Hallman said.