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Published: Tuesday, 10/19/2010

Purple/Blue Day at St. Joan of Arc School plants seeds of health, fitness


Showing their true colors, students waved around plastic bags packed with cucumbers, kiwi, grapes, and broccoli at St. Joan of Arc School, where lunch was color-coded last week.

School nurse Evelyn Schroder, who organized the healthy food event, displayed plums, red onion, red cabbage, blueberries, and purple grapes on Monday, Purple/Blue Day. A plump, purplish turnip puzzled students, who guessed it was some sort of radish or mushroom.

Around Mrs. Schroder's neck dangled a necklace of fruits and vegetables, such as a potato, carrot, and grapes. No, not real. The foam variety. Attention-getting nonetheless.

Capturing attention of students and their parents was a primary goal of the program, timed to coincide with National School Lunch Week.

Fresh food in lunches last Tuesday at St. Joan of Arc included apples, lettuce, peppers, and celery.

"What color are we celebrating today?" asked Mrs. Schroder.

"Green!" shouted the students.

Students readily tucked into some of the green stuff, such as kid-friendly grapes, but a few scoffed at more exotic foods, such as kiwi. And while the color-themed lunch packed a powerful punch, students eagerly slurped sweet juices and hastily unwrapped chocolate candy bars. Cookies, corn chips, cheese curls … those were plentiful too.

Paul Mikhail, a second-grader, relishes food made by his mom, including grape leaves and broccoli, but said, "Usually I have a sandwich."

Paul was happy to bring something different "because my mom wants me to get a sticker for my brother. My brother is always saying he wants a sticker, he wants a sticker."

At a nearby table, Luke Mikolajczyk, 6, chomped down on some raw broccoli, a vegetable packed, he said, "because it is healthy food week." So, will he continue the healthy trend?

Luke considered the broccoli. "I do not know," he said, his honesty a delicious treat.

At another table where first-graders had gathered, Anna Happ sampled kiwi; Ava Bowers scraped green Jell-O from a plastic cup; Christopher Aurand crunched a cucumber spear, and K.C. Okere predicted he would bring in an apple on Red Day and a banana on Yellow/Orange Day.

K.C. figured a banana was a safe bet. "Because I ate a banana before and I liked it."

After lunch, youngsters dashed outside where many walked or ran laps as part of Feet for Walking, a program designed to encourage kids to exercise. So far, just over 200 students have signed up.

Parent volunteers keep track of laps for each child. So far, after just several outings, 50 students have qualified for a Feet for Walking reward - a plastic foot-shaped charm on a chain - for reaching the five-mile mark.

Second-grade teacher Helen Westrick walks with her students. Of the 23 students in her class, each has participated at least once, said Mrs. Schroder. "She's gotten the spirit going," Mrs. Schroder said.

Kindergarten pupils who run cross country are among those making the most laps.

In between gasps for air after finishing five laps, 6-year-old Max Wyper said, "I like doing this sometimes because it's fun."

As Zack Britton, 7, received a red foot-shaped charm for reaching the five-mile mark, Mrs. Schroder congratulated him. He selected red "because it is the closest color to pink, and my Mom's favorite color is pink. This is for my Mom. She's collecting charms."

Mrs. Schroder beamed as other students reported laps. Dana Warner, 7, said she has two more laps to go before she earns a foot charm.

"I'm so glad all you guys love coming out here and getting exercise," Mrs. Schroder told them. Students are developing healthy habits for life, she said.

Third-grader Nate Smith, who has dashed 10 miles so far, has no plans to be a couch potato. "I'm going to run all my life."

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