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PLYMOUTH â€” The ubiquitous food pyramid, created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1992, was recently replaced by "My Plate," introduced in June 2011.
This easy-to-understand visual is one of the main tools Marshall County Purdue Extension employee Marta Bagley will be using as she teaches area students about food and nutrition beginning in January.
"Our goal is to see the kids continually go through the program and be better eaters and have better lifestyles," said Bagley.
Bagley will be teaching students in grades 1-6 in any Marshall County school that has 50 percent or more of its students enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program. She has a series of five 45-minute lessons planned during which students will learn about the food plate nutritional guide using mascot Professor Popcorn. Bagley hopes to begin after Christmas break. During the summer, she will teach lessons to summer youth programs such as the Boys and Girls Club and Boy and Girl Scouts.
The educational program is free to schools and other organizations and it is funded by the USDA through Purdue University.
Bagley's position is a new one for Marshall County, and while Fulton and Kosciusko counties have an adult nutrition education program, they do not have a person specifically set aside to teach the youth. St. Joseph county, however, has three youth nutrition assistants according to Bagley.
"There's a need for it in Marshall County because there are so many schools with free and reduced lunches," said Bagley.
She hopes to teach lasting lessons about health to all Marshall County children, including her own two sons.
"I'm trying to make (my sons) aware that they have choices," said Bagley.
"(There are) too many poor choices in food readily available to (children). It's hard for them to make the right choice."
One positive for this age group, continued Bagley, is that there are many sports programs available in the county that encourage fitness.
In addition to learning about food choices and healthy living at school, students can also ask their parents to familiarize themselves with the new "My Plate" nutrition guide. More information can be found at www.choosemyplate.gov.
To learn more about Bagley's position, watch the video at www.thepilotnews.com. Videos can be found near the bottom of the home page.