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Teaching Healthy Habits

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    Gillian Graham with students at Duck University

Southwestern student helps local children learn good eating habits

As a junior in high school, Southwestern University student Gillian Graham created a program to teach pre-school and elementary school students in her hometown of San Antonio about healthy eating habits. 

With Southwestern’s support, Graham has now expanded her program to Williamson County.

The program Graham started is called the Rainbow Foods Program. Graham explains that by eating as many of the six colors of the rainbow as possible in each meal, children will have a healthy, balanced diet.

“The main idea of the program is to eat your colors everyday,” Graham says. It is good to start at a young age since it is hard to change your practices when you are older.” 

With the help of Suzy Pukys, director of civic engagement, Gillian is now working with the Taylor Independent School District in their afterschool program called Duck University. Once a week, she holds a Rainbow Foods class where students are taught how to put meals together at home.

During a typical class, students work on a craft based out of a coloring book she created. Each page features a color of the rainbow with some examples of healthy foods. The students also look over recipes and create a snack with every color of the rainbow in it.  

“It is a really fun and laid-back class, but the whole time I am teaching them the concept,” says Graham, who is a sophomore English and pre-med major.

Graham says students and professors at Southwestern have given her ideas on how to further develop her program. With the help of a McMichael Fund grant from Southwestern, she will be able to make additional materials, such as at-home kits with a DVD and audio materials that students could use with their parents.

“Duck University is excited about working with Gillian again this spring,” says coordinator JoAnn Barcak. “She did a great program with our students last year.  Our students are eager to learn when presented with wonderful materials.” 

Graham says that even though children seem to know about healthy foods, it does not mean that they are practicing healthy habits on a regular basis.

“The fact that they are thinking and talking about it is a step in the right direction,” she says. “The main goal is to create habits for a longer, healthier life.”