'Nutrition Week' at Hardyston Middle School yields healthy meals, community service, sweat

26 Mar 2013 | 03:10

Local Hardyston Middle School student Adriana Purcell with help from the brand new Pass It Along chapter — which she helped to begin — saw her idea for a “Nutrition Week” realized from inception to completion during the week of March 11.

With inspiration from the “National Nutrition Week” initiative, started in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Purcell spearheaded efforts to shape a health-conscious menu for an entire week; helped put together a healthy cooking class that served as both an instructional tool for student participants as well as a charity effort, since all food products produced in the class were donated to local food pantry Manna House; and recruited teachers as instructors for the capstone event for the week, a free exercise class open to students, staff and middle school parents comprised of 90 minutes of combined instruction in kickboxing and Zumba.

“Obesity is not only a problem in our country, but is now an epidemic," said Purcell, a seventh-grader at Hardyston. "Since I am a first-hand witness of the way Hardyston Middle School students eat, my job as a student is to educate my friends."

“When words didn't work, the only other way to help my school that I could think of was to incorporate fun into education, and that is exactly what I did," Purcell continued. "Everyone had a great week, and it feels even better that my friends, for the most part, listened.”

In the spirit of volunteerism, all instructors, faculty and staff involved in Nutrition Week events donated their time, effort and expertise. Chapter members Shawn Gindhart and Zackary Epright, also in the seventh grade, helped Purcell facilitate events for the week, and helped increase visibility of the events and attendance through the bulletin board they designed.

Megan Kowalski, a sixth grade Language Arts teacher at the school, served as the kickboxing instructor, and brings in outside subject matter knowledge from her work at the Franklin CKO Kickboxing franchise. Katie Kuplin, the middle school’s Family Consumer Sciences teacher, donated her classroom space and teaching time to the cooking class, and also served as the Zumba instructor for the exercise portion of the initiative.

Pass It Along is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization engaging the youth throughout northwest New Jersey in volunteerism and service learning for more than 10 years, with a focus on the values of service in action, self-discovery, leadership and youth development. For further questions about the organization, its mission, or to get involved with Pass It Along’s volunteer opportunities, call 973-726-9777, or send an e-mail to info@passitalong.org.

Registration and info about upcoming volunteer opportunities are available at www.passitalong.org.