By SEAN ROWLEY
With a number of children’s health issues being attributed to diet, many schools try to instill in students an understanding of healthy eating and lifestyles.
Tahlequah Middle School received a visit Friday from a performing troupe called Foodplay, which discusses good health through actors telling a fun story.
“We receive information from different sources and this was something we were interested in, but couldn’t find the funding,” said Samantha Perry, Tahlequah Public Schools Child Nutrition program. “But we received grant money from Tahlequah BEST Community Coalition and Cherokee Nation Healthy Nation program, which allowed us to invite Foodplay.”
Perry visits district classrooms to discuss nutrition with students, and thought Foodplay would augment her message.
“It has acting and juggling, things which hold their interest but help them learn at the same time,” she said. “It is a lot of fun, and I know not everything about nutrition is fun for kids.”
The 50-minute show was held in the TMS gymnasium and attended by fifth-graders.
“The story is about Janey Junkfood, who wants to make the national junior juggling championships,” said Stephanie Thompson, Foodplay state manager. “But she is unable to because of bad habits. She eats junk food and doesn’t exercise.”
Janey, played by Alyssa Bryner for the TMS performance, gets some advice from Coach, played by Carlos Leon.
“The coach of the national junior juggling team helps Janey learn about good food,” Thompson said. “We want to do this in a way that kids can absorb and use in their everyday lives. They need to know that fruits and vegetables should be half their plates, and that they should drink less soda.”
Foodplay is performed by experienced actors. Leon holds a degree in theater performance from Florida Southern College, and Bryner earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from Penn State University. The production is independent and not attached to any agency.
“People see us or hear about us and ask us to come to their schools,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she and the actors are enthusiastic about Foodplay and its message.
“I love doing this,” she said. “I love seeing the kids’ faces, watching them light up and laugh. There is a part of the play where we tell them to ‘read it before you eat it,’ which is a lot of fun. I often see the kids still doing movements from the play as they are leaving.”
For more information about Foodplay, visit www.foodplay.com.