By Tierney Gallagher
The event welcomed more than 100 people, including 3rd, 4th and 5th graders and their family members. The event was hosted in part with the school’s after-school program, Club LEAP, which focuses on learning enhancement through the arts and physical fitness. Local restaurants and stores also contributed to the event by providing food, drinks, produce and other supplies.
As part of the Community Health Nursing course at Clemson, led by Jackie Gillespie, students were asked to conduct an assessment on a specific community and choose an individualized population to make an impact on. This group chose to focus on children who attended Blue Ridge Elementary School.
As part of their assessment, the students found that many of the children in this population were underprivileged, lived on welfare and received free breakfast and lunch while attending school during the week. However, they struggled with food at home. After learning this, they decided to put on an event emphasizing nutrition and healthy living that involved the students as well as parents, since they play a huge part in the foods children eat and the activities that they are involved in.
“We chose this topic because healthy eating and nutrition is one of the most prevalent issues that the school is facing with these young children,” said Ashley Gaffney, a senior nursing student. “On completion of the project, we hope that the children learn healthy eating options. We want the parents to be able to understand the health issues related to their child’s nutrition. We also want them to learn easy, affordable ways to buy foods and provide their children with more healthy options.”
The event featured activities for both children and parents to learn about healthy living. Different stations were set up for the children, including one to build their own recipe book, a mock drive-thru window to learn about healthy food choices, a snack-building station and a blow-up obstacle course. Nursing students even led the children in a group Zumba session.
Parents attended a presentation about healthy nutrition, affordable food prices, labeling, couponing and food preservation led by the nursing students. At the end of the night, both parents and children attended a dinner exemplifying healthy food options, where they also got a chance to win prizes for their kitchens, such as a toaster, pot and pan set, and a grill.
However, this event is just one step toward healthy living. The nursing students and school officials hope that participants walked away with more than just full stomachs and some new knowledge. “Our goal is that both the children and parents take away education that can help them better feed their families and make better choices at home,” said Lindsey MacDonald, the program director of Club LEAP. “So it’s not just something they learn and they get rid of but they actually implement what they learn today and in their everyday lives. Nutrition affects students’ behavior levels, and it’s really important for them to know about what the good choices are.”
MacDonald thinks that the event was not only beneficial to her students, but the Clemson students as well. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to get experience working with children and teaching them about things that might not be easy for them to understand,” said MacDonald. “Nutrition is a very complex subject matter and the students we serve in Club LEAP are struggling academically. It’s a great way for them to learn about different learning styles and even different ages.”
Gaffney feels that this project helps students learn how to work within the community through hands-on application outside of the classroom, and also feels it is important for Clemson students to get involved in things like this. “It broadens their view on the things that are going on around them and hopefully creates some type of desire to go out into the communities more and take an active part.”