A program that’s encouraging youth to exercise and eat healthy in Syracuse City Schools is about to expand from five to seven schools. The Growing Healthy Hearts program also emphasizes the need for mental preparation and treating others with kindness. American Heart Association Local Director Franklin Fry explains how characters that students earn are visually reinforcing the lessons in school.
"This one has a skateboard. It also is teaching kids about eating the proper amounts of fruits and vegetables, so this one has a character 'eating the rainbow' of color. The character is holding a little banana, and some fruits and vegetables, and some grapes."
The program has been in city schools for about a year. Emanie Cook is in 5th grade at McKinley-Brighton, and feels that younger students are now catching on and leaving unhealthy snacking behind.
"We drink, like, smoothies, or something like that. Sometimes we do drink water, but not all the time. And we eat more vegetables and stuff."
The addition of H.W. Smith and McKinley-Brighton Elementary will allow Growing Healthy Hearts to reach about 4,400 students in Syracuse. Part of the challenge of kids getting the right nutrition is poverty. An obesity report released in September by the Trust for America’s Health found 20 percent of children in Onondaga County live in poverty and the county was ranked 34th in the state for overall health.