We got a chance to chat with Jenny Carlson, one of the amazing extension agents from the University of Florida, who is doing great work in Putnam County, Florida. OWG: Tell us a little about where you work and what your responsibilities are.
Jenny: My name is Jenny Carlson and I am a Family Nutrition Program Assistant in Putnam County. The Family Nutrition Program (FNP) is provided through the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service and provides educational programs in food and nutrition to low-incomeaudiences. The majority of my programs are taught in elementary schools in preK-5th grade. I visit 38 classrooms once a month for the entire school year to teach a series of nutrition programs
OWG: How long have you been using the OWG programming and what do you like about it?
Jenny: Several of my schools have used the OWG for the past three years and have really enjoyed the program. One of the best features of OWG is that it requires almost no preparation or planning on the teacher’s part; you just open up the kit and get started! All of the lessons coordinate seamlessly with the videos, books, and games- and are even linked to the national and state standards. Teachers love using the program because it’s educational and easy, students love the program because it’s entertaining and fun. Now that’s a good combination! I usually do a kickoff assembly to get the kids excited about the program and also offer resources and support to the teachers as they put the OWG into action.
OWG: We know that there are some big obstacles that you are working to overcome as you educate children about healthy lifestyles. What are some of the challenges that you face and how do you overcome them?
Jenny: One of the biggest challenges that I face in teaching healthy lifestyles to kids is extending the information to their families at home. I find that the children are ready and willing to try new healthy foods and understand the importance of physical activity, but they are often limited by their family’s lifestyle. I frequently hear comments such as, “I like broccoli but Mom doesn’t so she doesn’t buy it” or “Can you please tell my grandma about how Hardy Heart doesn’t like fried foods because she fries everything.” Whenever possible, I send informational handouts home with the students that explain what nutrition topic we covered. I also give each child an “I Tried It” sticker with a picture of the food that they tasted during our nutrition program. My goal is that a parent or guardian will notice a sticker that boldly proclaims “I Tried Hummus!” and it will spark a conversation at home. This tactic worked particularly well with the hummus. The front desk at one of my main schools received many calls from parents asking what on earth this hummus was that they’re child loved so much at school and where could they find it. A proud moment for me!
OWG: Who is your favorite OWG character and why?
Jenny: My favorite OWG character is Sir Rebrum. When I’m introducing a group of students to the characters using OrganWise Gal or OrganWise Guy, I always save Sir Rebrum for last. Kids LOVE watching me pull Sir Rebrum out of the head. They think it’s disgusting and completely awesome at the same time! I love watching their expressions. Teachers also like to reference Sir Rebrum as motivation to get their students to eat breakfast every day because Sir Rebrum just isn’t awake until you feed him breakfast!