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Eastport students learn benefits of healthy eating

Students in Marie Smith's fourth-grade class at Eastport

Students in Marie Smith's fourth-grade class at Eastport Elementary School learned about the importance of healthy eating and nutrition during a special presentation by Peg Merzbacher of online grocer Peapod. (June 6, 2012) Credit: Michael Cusanelli

When Peg Merzbacher asked the students in Marie Smith’s fourth-grade class at Eastport Elementary School on Wednesday what they knew about eating healthy, several hands shot up quickly into the air. Some students suggested eating fruits and vegetables. Others said it was important to drink more water and less soda.

During the hourlong presentation by Merzbacher, who’s part of an initiative by Peapod, the online grocery delivery service, called “Kids Give Back” program, students learned about healthy alternatives to sweets, how to read nutrition labels, and the dangers of “empty calories” found in junk foods and snacks -- items that taste good but offer few nutrients.

“Nutritious foods fill you up, so you won’t be hungry every hour,” said Bubba Capazzola, 9, of Eastport.

Added Gemella Ando, 9, of Eastport: “You can get a lot of foods that are healthy, but you have to look at the fiber and the calories and the vitamins. You can be more healthy and be a model for the younger children when they get older.”

As part of the “Kids Give Back” program, in which Peapod donated $150 in gift cards, students will use their new knowledge to order canned goods and nonperishable items for the Eastport Bible Church Food Bank.

“I love working with fourth- and fifth-graders because they’re so anxious to learn and to help their local community,” Merzbacher said. “I feel like starting early really equips them to make smart decisions about what they put in their bodies.”

In addition to learning about healthy choices for their own lives, the lesson factored in the state of the national and local economy, and how millions of Americans often struggle to provide their families with sufficient meals.

“People that you might not even expect are food insecure and don’t know where their next meal will come from,” Merzbacher told the students.

Eastport Elementary School is the second school on Long Island to participate in the program.

In addition to the lesson from Peapod, students in Smith’s class also learn about the importance of organic foods and in supporting local farmers on the East End.

“I think since they’re young ... that this from an early age will get them to make healthy choices and know why they’re making healthy choices,” said Smith, 49. “It's not just about what they eat, but how it's connected to the world around them.”

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