RYE, N.Y. - While many parents might believe children are naturally drawn to junk food, candy and soda, Blythedale Children's Hospital dietician Marie Roth has a different opinion.
"I have this belief that kids innately want to be healthy," Roth said. "I think if we just give them the skills they need then they will come through."
Roth said she has evidence to back her claim. Since 2006, Roth has been touring the county's school districts teaching nutrition seminars for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Through the use of visual aids, hands-on activities and games such as vitamin and mineral jeopardy, Roth has educated more than 50,000 students about the importance of eating healthy.
The Eat Well, Be Well program is funded by Kohl's Department stores and began more than five years ago as a way to combat obesity in the county.
"Westchester's rates of obesity are far higher than the national average," Roth said. "So the original goal of the program was to combat obesity by preventing it from ever happening."
Roth added that, with the implementation of the 2 percent property tax cap , the Kohl's funded program, which is free to the district, has increased in demand.
"With all of the cutbacks all the schools are looking for free ways to enhance their curriculum," Roth said. "This program really fills a good need."
According to Roth, Blythedale Children's Hospital had to turn schools away this year despite adding a second dietician to the program. While the program is still small, Roth sees great opportunity for further expansion.
"This was only supposed to be a part-time job," Roth said laughing.
Roth, who has been coming to Osborn School for about three years, will spend a few days a week teaching nutrition lessons. She said she'd be at the school two or three times during the school year. Although the lessons are different for each grade, the program is constructed so the student can build on their knowledge.
"It's amazing what they remember from year to year," Roth said.
In addition to frequenting Osborn School, Roth has also brought the Eat Well, Be Well program to both the Midland School and Rye Middle School.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.