Fourth-grade students applied the lessons they learned in the classroom during a trip to the grocery store.
Six classes from Waupaca Learning Center went to Piggly Wiggly on Wednesday, April 24, for a tour.
Their activities included comparing the sugar content in various canned fruits and the fat and calcium content in different dairy foods.
Last week’s tour was the culmination of a series of 10 nutritional lessons Alyson Bechard taught the students through the Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program.
“We really want them to be able to read the labels,” said Bechard, the local coordinator of the federally funded program.
Schools with 50 percent or more of the students on free or reduced hot lunches qualify for the program, she said.
At Waupaca Learning Center, the fourth grade qualified, said Bechard, who works with the Waupaca County UW-Extension office.
Bechard also works with students in the Marion, Weyauwega, Clintonville and New London school districts.
“Research shows if you get them early, you are more likely to see behavioral change,” she said. “In some schools, I work with second and fourth grade and in some just fourth grade. They respond well to the lessons.”
Her classroom activities included having the students measure sugar to see how much is in different food. She also talked to the students about fast food.
The fourth graders from WLC received a bonus lesson about nutrition labels.
That is because the visit to Piggly Wiggly also included showing the students the store’s new check-out aisle, which features healthy snack options.
Scott Neumann, manager of the store, worked on the project with Waupaca Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson.
It is a project of ACHIEVE – Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental Change.
The city received a $50,000 grant through the National Recreation and Parks Association to become part of it. ACHIEVE brings together concerned citizens to create healthy communities and provide local leaders with education and resources to solve specific health problems.
This check-out aisle at Piggly Wiggly includes a cooler filled with items such as Greek yogurt, bottled water and fresh fruit. The aisle also has trail mix, nuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins and granola bars.
“I think it’s a real good program,” Neumann said “It’s a real good option.”
He encourages other schools interested in doing such tours of the grocery store to contact him.
“This is the very first time we’ve done this,” Bechard said regarding the grocery store tour.
“To their credit, they could pick it apart pretty well,” she said of the students looking at the nutritional labels of food products.
Bechard and Connie Abert, of the Waupaca County UW-Extension office, worked together on coming up with the activities the students had to do at the grocery store.
Bechard also contacted her colleagues from throughout the state.
She said grocery store tours are common for parents, and she was working to create one for students.
“We went with foods they are typically drawn to and eat to teach them that they maybe are not the best choices,” Bechard said.
In addition to looking at the nutritional labels on canned fruits and milk, the students also compared the fat content in different types of meats and the difference in the sugar and nutrient content between 100 percent fruit juices and fruit drinks.
They also compared the sugar, fiber and vitamin content in a variety of cereals and the fat and fiber content in common snack foods.
During the discussion about canned and packaged fruits, Bechard told the students fresh fruit and vegetables are a better choice.
“Kids really need to be taught these skills about what to look for,” said Amy Lemkuil, who teaches fourth grade at WLC. “This is a really good trip.”
She hopes the students take the real-world lessons they learned in the grocery store with them the next time they go to a grocery store with their parents.
So does Bechard.
“I hope we get the kids to say, ‘Mom, I know this has a lot of sugar,'” she said.