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Field trip produces nutritional insights for fifth-graders

Organizers hope field trip will encourage healthy eating

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – It wasn't a typical field trip.

On a recent school day, instead of visiting a museum or a firehouse, a group of fifth-graders from Keller Elementary took a tour of the grocery store.

Wayne State University dietetics student Daniele Blunk led the tour through Holiday Market in Royal Oak.  They started in the produce section.

"Does anyone remember what we get from our fruits and vegetables? Do we remember those nutrients?" asked Blunk. 

Hands shot up.

"Let's move down here," Blunk said. "We have a little surprise for you guys at the end."

The surprise was a fruit cup.

As they worked their way up and down the aisles, there was a free sample -- and a lesson -- around every corner.

"We're learning about all the different kinds of foods and what's healthy and what's not," said fifth-grader Annabel Flora.

It was eye-opening for some.

"I didn't know that a lot of the food I eat is unhealthy, and I should start eating more healthy food like cheese, vegetables," said Connor Stoyanof.

In the deli meat section, students learned to spot excess sodium.

"So with our packaged meats, whether it's your bacon or your lunch meat, we have to be careful because again, it's packaged with sodium," said Blunk.

The field trip is part of Healthy Town Everywhere, a program developed by family physician Dr. Paul Ehrmann. The goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle in local communities.

"It's important for everyone, but especially children. (They) are obviously our future, and we need to make sure they maintain their health, and we need to teach them good nutrition and fitness, and that's one of the main reasons we like to do this," said Ehrmann.

Ehrmann has been a passionate advocate of healthy lifestyles as the medical director of the Family Health Care Center of Royal Oak for more than 35 years.

"We can prevent a lot of problems later on in life," said Ehrmann.

The tour of Holiday Market is the culmination of five weeks of nutrition lessons.

"This is a great way for the kids to see what we've been learning about in class," said Blunk. "I want them to look at healthier options, being more creative in their choices. I want them to look for high-protein snacks, things with high fiber and vitamins and minerals, and I want them to start looking at labels, looking for high sugar and high sodium foods and to avoid those foods."

The highlight of the trip was trying several new foods. While not everyone was keen on quinoa salad, they were all willing to give it a try.

"I've see a huge change in the way they eat themselves and showing me their labels, and it's really been a very effective program," said fifth-grade teacher Michelle Daane. "I think it's just broadening their food boundaries, so they can see that they liked things that they never heard of."

"Kids have a much more intense interest in nutrition as we get out to these schools now," said Ehrmann.  "I hope we can spread the idea to different communities."

Ehrmann said parents are often surprised by the healthy foods that children will eat.

"They'll go home and tell their parents," said Ehrmann. "There's a lot of assumptions that sometimes go on."

At the end of the tour, the students said it was fun and inspiring.

"I'll have some of the healthy foods and make it into this interesting snack," said Flora.

To learn more about Healthy Town Everywhere, click here.

To visit Ehrmann's website, click here.