Nikolas Bistolas and his fifth-grade buddies got a move on Thursday at Jefferson Elementary School , encouraged by about 30 employees of Pepperidge Farm . With Hula Hoops, jump ropes, orange cones and basketballs, the corporation continued its effort to fight childhood obesity , as well as improve employee morale.
"We're here for really two reasons," said Tim Hassett, general manager of the Fresh and Frozen Bakery Division. "The corporate social responsibility is officially why we're here, but we're really here to do a couple of things. This is part of our team building, so we're trying to get energy from the kids. We're leaving them a little holiday gift. We're sending them home with healthy, great-tasting products that we make."
The children were each given a cloth Pepperidge Farm bag. Tucked inside were items such as herb stuffing, whole-wheat mini-bagels, whole grain goldfish and Milano cookies.
Pepperidge Farm has been working with Jefferson's second-graders this year in what Ruthann Walsh, director of corporate responsibility, described as a pilot program. This is the first year of a three-year effort to reduce the pupils body mass index. Walsh called it an "unusual" partnership of the school, the corporation, Norwalk Hospital and the Department of Health. "We're teaching them things like 'drink water instead of soda,' and the second-graders are amazing. They're so receptive to this," she said. "We're teaching them about healthy eating. They don't know what an avocado is. We gave them avocados. They go home and they have to make a recipe with it. They're really responding to that."
After the fun and games in the gym, the children went home and the Pepperidge Farm adults went to work pulling weeds from the educational garden behind the school. Principal John Reynolds said the work would have been done by parents and pupils if Pepperidge Farm wasn't volunteering, and it would set back the curriculum. "When the spring comes, instead of having to spend hours cleaning it out and getting ready to do the teaching, we can go right to planting the gardens and using these for the curriculum links," he said. "It's a huge assist. It fast-forwards the educational theme in the spring."
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