Wednesday, June 27, 2007


EDITORIAL CONTACT: Lisa L. Rollins, 615-898-2919

Youth from Seven Area Counties Combine Cooking, Healthy Lifestyle Lessons at Event;
Organizers Create Camp to Combat Childhood Obesity, Inspire Better Food Choices

(MURFREESBORO)—Health, nutrition and fitness topped the menu for some 35 campers who signed up for the first 4-H Myself Camp held earlier this month on the MTSU campus.
Area 4-H extension agents partnered with the university’s Department of Human Sciences to help camp organizers create a food-meets-fun event for grades six through eight designed to make celery sensational, broccoli more beautiful and turn jicama—a sweet and edible root that resembles the turnip—into a household word.
Justin Crowe, Davidson County extension agent, was the creator and director of the camp, which he said he was inspired to initiate after attending a 4-H conference in Washington, D.C., in 2006.
“There is most definitely a great need (for this kind of nutrition-focused camp), because not only do youth not know how to cook and how to function on their own when they might be at home by themselves, but they also don’t know what resources are available,” he said.
“Oftentimes, it’s easier to stop at McDonald’s or some fast-food place on the way home, and those kinds of places are fine, because there are lots of healthy things you can get in those kinds of environments,” Crowe continued. “However, what we want the kids to understand is that the kitchen is not a scary place. Yes, there are safety things to consider, but when a young person is at home, they can prepare food at home. They can learn new and innovative recipes that are easy to make, with five or six ingredients, and have things they can eat at home.”
Middle-schoolers from Rutherford, Coffee, Davidson, Robertson Wilson, Sumner and Cheatham counties lined up in MTSU’s Rutledge Hall to register for Myself Camp before being divided into three activity groups—the Fruits, Grains and Dairy teams—and participating in back-to-back educational sessions teaching youngsters how to make healthier lifestyle choices.
One of the event’s fun and innovative sessions was Veggie Time. Kathy Finley, Robertson County extension agent, said the activity encouraged children to explore vegetables with all their senses, and in the end, the campers “actually did pretty well trying different things.”
“Some of them had never eaten a sweet red pepper, and so they liked those,” Finley said, smiling. “They tried the celery and broccoli with some different dips. We asked them to try the cucumbers and tomatoes with cottage cheese, and they found that, ‘Hey, that’s OK.’ But otherwise, they had were like, ‘Yuck!’ But then they decided that was something they could try and it was OK … and most of them tried it and had fun.”
Campers also “felt different things (such as) an ear of corn to determine what that was, and they listened to someone biting into an apple … or peeling a banana,” she continued. “They also smelled several foods, like tomatoes, and we even added fruit in there with pineapple—not only feeling the texture of the pineapple, but also the smell of it once it was being cut. So they got to experience several things in that session.”
Aside from classes in nutrition know-how, reading food labels, maintaining a proper body image and cooking their own meals, campers also had lessons in table etiquette and how to properly organize a place setting, from plates and napkins to big and little forks and spoons, and learned about food safety with the help of a Glo-Germ—a chemical that glows beneath a black light when cross-contamination has occurred as a result of reusing kitchen utensils.
At the close of the weekend event, Crowe encouraged all camp participants to share what they had learned with at least 10 other people, especially younger children. Then, to help them with their assignment, each camper was presented with a large plastic tub of nutrition-related materials, games, coloring books and information, including an 18-inch-tall inflatable food pyramid.
“Childhood obesity is a major issue right now,” Crowe said. “Kids are not making good, healthy choices, and so what we want as a result of this camp is for these kids to not only go home with (healthy food) knowledge but to share that knowledge with others.”
Many of this year’s participants said they hope to return to the nutrition camp again next year, and many expressed a desire for the camp to last longer than a weekend. If Crowe gets his way, 4-H Myself Camp will be an annual event at MTSU with a reach that’s statewide, not just regional.
Chris Brown, a 4-H member from Manchester, is among those who said he plans to return to Myself Camp in summer 2008.
“This was pretty fun,” exclaimed the brown-eyed camper, as he readied for the trip back home. “I liked a lot of the activities we got to do, and I liked having my own dorm room. And I really think I liked the sessions.
“A lot of the sessions that we had and the classes that we attended were fun. We really did some interesting things in those classes,” he said, laughing.
• For more information about 4-H activities and programs, including Myself Camp, contact your county’s local extension agent.


***ATTENTION, MEDIA: To interview camp organizer Justin Crowe or participating extension agents from your county, please contact Lisa L. Rollins in the Office of News and Public Affairs at MTSU at 615-898-2919 or via e-mail at*** Please note that video footage from this event is available to broadcast outlets upon request, including interviews with camp participants and organizers, by contacting Rollins.

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