Building Healthier Minds and Bodies

By Deborah Antoine, President and CEO, NYJTL

There is something remarkable about watching children make smart decisions about their health and nutrition, especially when so many other options are available.

At New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL), our mission is to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court. Partnering with EmblemHealth illustrates our devotion to this mission by working together to increase the knowledge of students about nutrition and the power of choice.

EmblemHealth and NYJTL have developed a Healthy Living program that teaches students how to make healthy choices in a fun and engaging way. Through this program, students in over 40 locations throughout New York City have received lessons on food groups and the benefits of a healthy diet. We started with an English version in 2013 and this year translated all the materials into Spanish, French and Mandarin. Additionally, some of the materials are posted online.

As part of the program, students receive a “BodegaBuddy” clip card as something tangible to hang onto each day. The laminated card hooks onto book bags and details healthy food choices – such as fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy and grains – that students can make when visiting the corner store for after school snacks.

Children are really getting smart about making healthy choices. When they combine this knowledge with other character-building skills, it becomes a wonderful way for them to interact with others around them, including their families. As a result, their parents and guardians become change agents as well. They are provided a Family Guide, which encourages healthier food choices for the whole family and includes modified recipes of traditional favorites.

When lessons about nutrition are paired up with physical activity, the kids develop skills and habits that last a lifetime. As we have discovered, children are most open to new ideas when they are tied to an activity they love.