Junior League draws crowd for nutrition knowledge

GARRISON WELLS Updated: March 9, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: March 9, 2013

Kids learned a lot of lessons Saturday, and didn’t even know it. They had too much fun.

They learned to dance, kick, punch, tumble and long jump. They also learned to make simple, healthy food and picked up nutrition tips.

Several hundred kids with their parents in tow were expected at Kids in the Kitchen, held by the Junior League of Colorado Springs at the Freedom Financial Services Expo Center.

The event’s purpose, said Marne O’Brien-Hillis, president of the league in Colorado Springs, was to raise awareness of childhood obesity. In 2009, she said, a report said 28.7 percent of Colorado kids aged 2 through 14 were obese.

The program was started by the Association of Junior Leagues International , she said.

It has taken off in Colorado Springs. The first year it was held, 2006, only three kids showed up. Last year, there were 935, O’Brien-Hillis said.

People waited in the cold for the doors to open for the event at 10 a.m. By 10:30, hundreds were already in the center.

There’s a reason to attract the kids, she said.

“We feel that the education of the child can pull in the whole family,” O’Brien-Hillis said.

Toques were popular headwear at the event. By 10:45 a.m., the 100 that were available for kids to decorate and then wear, was down to its last one, said Christy Witherspoon, a junior league member.

“We are preparing them to be kids in the kitchen,” she said.

Entertainment was provided by dancers from Fountain Arts Center. There were 30 girls aged 6 to 16 who performed, said Rachel Brannen, owner. It wasn’t just a performance. The lesson was that dance makes for good exercise, she said.

“There are alternatives to regular exercise like jogging and running,” she said. “Dancing is great for the body, mind and soul.”

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services coupled nutritional learning with exercise. Kids did long jumps, then got their rewards before heading to a display of how much sugar they ingest. They are supposed to have three teaspoons a day, said Sharon Jacob, a dietician with Penrose. In front of her on a table were common drinks such as soda and juice. Soda, kids learned, has as much as 20 teaspoons of sugar. Juice has 13.

Kids are disappointed when they learn that, she said.

“A lot of them drink juice,” she said. “We need to cut back on their juice because it’s a lot of calories. We need to concentrate on water and white milk.”

Four-year-old Micah Gilder may have been the happiest kid there. He was taught to break a board at the U.S. Taekwondo Centers display. His mother, Cynthia Gilder, cheered him on.

“This was for him to see what there is to do,” she said. “He’s very active. We’re here to learn about the different things to do in the Springs.”

Micah declined comment.

However, he nodded his head that it was fun. Then he nodded his head that it felt good.

When asked if he wanted to do it again, he shook his head.

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