Initiative gets kids to eat healthy, LiveWell

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Across the Air Force, children ages 3-18 will soon learn the importance of nutrition thanks to the Air Force Services Activity’s Kids LiveWell Healthy Initiative.

The Air Force-wide initiative is geared toward kids, but it has another purpose, said Jonathan Grammer, AFSVA programs director.

“It’s really geared to the adults to teach them what they should do for their kids,” Grammer said.

Air Force Youth Programs, Air Force Clubs and Air Force Food Services teamed with the National Restaurant Association, or NRA, and Sysco Foods to help kids pick and create healthy meal choices. 

“All three were working together to have a larger impact on base youth,” said Charissa Jarrett, business operations specialist for AFSVA.

The initiative kicked off recently at Joint Base San Antonio installations with events featuring food preparation, food samples, educational games and gift bags that include healthful meal recipes.

Approximately 200 children and their parents attended the April 14 event at JBSA-Lackland, and 26 preschoolers and their parents attended a similar event at JBSA-Randolph April 21.

Dustin Alexander, a chef with Sysco Foods, prepared easy-to-make food choices such as whole wheat English muffin pizzas; chicken and peach wraps; banana on a stick with yogurt and granola; and carrot and celery sticks with a yogurt-based dip.

Technical Sgt. Christine Wallace, a food and beverage manager with AFSVA who helped prepare the chicken wraps for Lackland youth, said she stresses good dietary habits to her 2-year-old son.

“It’s insanely important,” said Wallace, who’s expecting her second child in July. Although her son is a picky eater, Wallace said he would eat the peach and chicken wrap.

After watching food preparation demonstrations, the kids got to sample the healthful choices.

Rey Domingo, 16, a sophomore at Stacey High School at Lackland ISD, said he attended the event for the food.

“The food was really good,” said Domingo, who also stars on the track team. “I’m learning about health, and I feel people should start eating healthier.”

Avion Swindell, 15, also a sophomore, agreed.

“The food was delicious,” she said. “I like to cook and learn more about nutrition.”
And it wasn’t just the older kids who hungrily ate the samples.

“The sauce tastes different, but it’s good,” said Lackland Elementary School student Caitlyn Baney, 10, as she took a bite of the pizza that consisted of a tomato paste-based sauce, mozzarella cheese and sliced tomatoes on top of an English muffin with broccoli and ranch dressing on the side.

Shawn Brown, 10, also enjoyed the snacks, even helping himself to seconds.

“It was good. I’m going to eat again,” he said.

Pre-schoolers at JBSA-Randolph were entertained as Alexander demonstrated making a yogurt dip for carrot and celery sticks, and offered a new twist on popsicles: frozen bananas dipped in yogurt and granola.

Carolyn Simoneaux, a mother of four, attended the presentation with her youngster Matthew. 

“It is very helpful to have some new fresh ideas of ways to get healthful foods into the kids, especially with all of their sports activities. What the chef showed us today was quick and easy, and very portable. I appreciate that,” she said.

Dawn Carroll-Alexander said her 4-year-old, Simon, recently became a picky eater. 

“Right now, it’s a matter of expressing his independence in choosing what he will eat. It was good to learn some fun ways of presenting fruits and vegetables to entice him to try new things,” she said.

Julia Velez, mother of “Chef Nelson,” said she appreciated that the Air Force is taking care of families.

“I am so glad that we had this opportunity through the Air Force. I am glad they took the lead in this and they are integrating the whole family. They are thinking beyond the service member to everyone’s health. We can actually affect the health of our children starting early and make healthier families, as Air Force families and as military families. I hope all the branches join in and do something like this,” she said.