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NMSU Extension expands Just Be It! program to Rio Rancho elementary schools

RIO RANCHO ? The nationally recognized Just Be It! Healthy & Fit youth nutrition program is being taught to 800 elementary school-age children in Rio Rancho public schools.

Boy running under colorful parachute
Rio Rancho elementary students enjoy the physical activities they participate in during the New Mexico State University Extension?s Just Be It! Healthy & Fit healthy lifestyle program taught during the after-school program. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

The school district?s before-and-after-school Students Achieving For Excellence (S.A.F.E.) program has incorporated the nutrition education curriculum that promotes healthy lifestyles by reducing risk factors for childhood obesity.

?When I saw a presentation by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension home economist about the curriculum that they developed, I thought it was ideal for our program,? said Sherri Carver, Rio Rancho Public Schools director of student services.

The JBI curriculum teaches youth to make nutritious food choices, such as eating fruit and vegetables for snacks instead of junk food, and promotes regular physical activity. The lessons introduce the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s My Plate food groups and the daily serving size for a healthy diet.

Just Be It! Healthy and Fit has been used in several of the district?s elementary schools for the past two years, but this year it was expanded to all 10 elementary schools with the help of a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico?s Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative.

?The JBI curriculum goes hand-in-hand with Blue Cross Blue Shield?s initiative,? said Nicole Lujan, Sandoval County Extension home economist. ?They are providing a $9,500 grant to purchase food for the nutritional snack that goes with each of the 10 lessons.?

Just Be It! Healthy & Fit was created by NMSU Extension home economists in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties to be taught to fifth-grade students. The original program began with a district-wide field trip in which the students participated in activities that introduced them to a healthy lifestyle. The Extension agent then visits individual classrooms to teach the lessons that include a nutritional education component, a physical activity and a healthy snack.

?This is the only JBI program in the state where we actually trained the trainers so the S.A.F.E. staff members are the ones actually teaching the program and the Cooperative Extension Service is providing the resources for the program,? Lujan said. ?It is also the first to teach the program to children in kindergarten through fifth grade.?

?NMSU?s Cooperative Extension Service provided a manual that includes all of the lessons, activities and recipes for the nutritional snack,? said Marla Chrisman, S.A.F.E site coordinator at Colinas Del Norte Elementary School. ?This is a wonderful addition to our other programs and activities.?

And how do the kids like the program? The site coordinators report that they love the activities and, especially, the nutritional snack.

?The program combines both components of health. They get nutritional information, but also, healthy activity and fitness,? said Kate Durso, site coordinator at Maggie Cordova Elementary School. ?The activities are good for all age groups and all interests; you can really vary it for your audience. My favorite activities are when we get them to try new, uncommon or exotic foods. I like seeing their reactions to the new tastes.?

Visit http://babysfirstwish.aces.nmsu.edu/resources.html for more information about the Just Be It! Healthy & Fit program.