The U.S. Department of Agriculture is promoting a giant full-body exhibit for kids to walk through to promote healthy eating habits.
While encouraging schools to apply for nearly $6 million in grants to help them comply with the First Lady Michelle Obama-promoted Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act new lunch standards, the USDA highlighted efforts by the Kansas State Department of Education.
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"Body Venture, a traveling health education exhibit sponsored by Kansas State Department of Education travels to schools to teach students about nutrition and physical activity," the USDA said in a blog post Friday.
Body Venture is a 45-foot by 50-foot exhibit that starts with kids walking through a giant person’s open mouth, travel through a stomach and small intestines, and ending up in the "brain dome," an ogre-like creature with a huge nose.
A video shows organizers who at times struggle to put the giant structure together. The video shows children, who spend almost an hour in the exhibit, brushing and flossing very large teeth, and dancing in the stomach. A kid near the end of the video says his favorite part was the "germs."
The exhibit had 89 visits to local elementary schools scheduled during the 2014-2015 school year.
The Kansas State Department of Education said the exhibit was created "because our children are flunking eating."
"A critical need to address good nutrition, physical activity, and other healthy lifestyle choices exists because among American kids: One in three children are now overweight or obese," the agency says on a website devoted to the exhibit.
"Lifestyle choices made at early ages have a direct impact on adult health," they added. "Students need to learn about healthy lifestyle choices and to avoid behaviors that have an adverse impact on adult health."
"Obesity in youth often carries over into adulthood contributing to the development of many chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes," the Kansas State Department of Education added. "Teachers need additional resources to increase nutrition knowledge and improve eating skills of elementary school students. Body Venture can help meet these needs."
Kansas State Department of Education received a grant from the USDA in 2012 to develop a nutrition education curriculum.
"As part of the lesson, students participated in cooking/tasting activities and received a student activity booklet with recipes and weekly activities," the USDA said.
The agency also started a fruit and vegetable program with the funding, claiming that 40.9 percent of students said their family began buying and eating more fruits and vegetables after participating in the program, and mangoes started flying off the shelves.
"The students were very excited about trying new foods and were very receptive to the program," a representative from Sabetha Middle School, in Kansas, said. "At the end of the four weeks, the majority of students said they had their parents buy at least one of the fruits and vegetables we had tried to eat at home, and about half had tried the recipes we provided at home. I was also told by the produce manager at our local grocery store that he ran out of mangoes for two weeks after we featured it in the program."
The USDA announced a new round of grants of up to $5.5 million to introduce behavioral economics into schools to change the eating habits of kids.
"These grants focus on the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms—an innovative strategy using behavioral economics to encourage healthy eating in the cafeteria—as well as the healthier meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), USDA Foods, nutrition education, and wellness activities in schools and child care institutions," the USDA said.