Wantage students learn how to stay healthy

Holistic nutritionist speaks to kids about eating right and keeping active

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  • Photo by Viktoria-Leigh Wagner First-grader Nicholas Marangi, 7, of Wantage does the hula hoop at Wantage School's Family Fun Night.

  • Photo by Viktoria-Leigh Wagner Co-founder of Foundational Health and Fitness Amanda Brown challenges a Wantage student to a hula relay race.

“Obesity is becoming a big problem, as well as the body image disturbances, and I don’t like to see the kids doing things like getting on single-food diets, starving themselves or turning to medications to lose weight.”

Hamburg resident Wendy Dransfield, a registered nurse of 20 years, is the co-founder of Foundational Health and Fitness in the Wantage Plaza with Amanda Brown of Wantage. The pair has owned the business five years.

“It’s a women’s fitness center. We train, talk nutrition, guide people through their weight loss and lead classes,” Dransfield said. “As a holistic nutritionist, I believe nutrition isn’t just to make bodies simply function. Nutrition is for a person’s whole wellness: spirit, mind and body. That’s our philosophy there.”

Dransfield said she wanted to talk to students and parents to promote wellness and health while the children are still in their formative years.

"If kids are eating healthy, their bodies will be healthy and those habits are likely to follow them as they grow older," Dransfield said.

On March 26, during the Wantage Elementary School Nutrition/Exercise Council’s Family Fun Night, Foundational Health and Fitness got that chance.

Wantage School nurse of 19 years, Deborah Fisher, organized and coordinated the event. The Council partnered with the Sussex-Wantage Regional School District Parent-Teacher Organization, who donated healthy snacks and beverages—made up of fruits, vegetables and water—for everyone to eat at the end of the event.

According to Fisher, new school health guildelines require the school nurse refer for further evaluation a child whose weight for age or height is greater than the 95th percentile; whose weight for age or height, or height for age is less than the 5th percentile, and who shows a dramatic change in growth pattern; who shows a significant weight loss — 10 percent or more of body weight.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had an event like this,” Fisher said. “We were very pleased with the turnout, 45 people. Next year, we’re thinking about getting a Zumba class started and doing Family Fun Night on a monthly basis.”

Brown said she got involved with Foundational Health and Fitness to change lives.

“While Wendy is the nutrition part, I’m the fitness part," Brown said. "So for Family Fun Night, I lead the exercises for the kids. We had students and their parents participate in a relay race to get them active and their heart rates up.”

Before the relay races, Dransfield gave parents and students advice on what to avoid in grocery stores, such as processed foods, carbohydrates in the form of pasta, potatoes or wheat, and even dairy.

“Milk is for babies,” Dransfield said, “and the milk we drink is specifically for calves. Think about it: they have four digestive stomach compartments! I suggest people use either almond or coconut milk.”

Dransfield, who eats primarily whole foods herself, believes artificial sugars should be taken off the market.

“I’m not against a piece of birthday cake every once in a while, but whole, healthy foods are the way to go. I encourage people to eat more vegetables, protein and fruit. Real sugars, contained in foods like fruits, are far better than any kind of processed sugar. It’s also wise to choose fresh fruits over fruit snacks.”

Clifton E. Lawrence School students and their parents also were invited to the event, as well as 14-year Lawrence School nurse Pamela Flynn.

“Being active with the family isn’t just exercise, it’s also fun,” she said. “Kids might not even realize they’re getting exercise. I just hope we really made a difference.”

“I had a lot of fun racing around with my mom,” said fourth-grader Sage Shaddinger, 9 of Wantage. “We learned about nutrients and eating right. Afterwards, we ate some of the healthy foods we talked about.”

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