D'Brickashaw Ferguson visited Lillian M. Steen School in Bogota, N.J., on Tuesday as part "Eat Right, Move More," a partnership involving the Jets, the state Department of Agriculture, and the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council's Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign.
"I've been involved with this program for a number of years," said Ferguson, the Jets' left tackle who was on hand to present a $5,000 check from the Jets to Steen School for a total kitchen makeover. "It's great because I get to interact with the youth of New Jersey. We talk about things that affected my life and affect their lives. Things like sports and food choices."
The son of a health teacher, Ferguson claimed he "had no choice" in his food selection as a child. Despite his healthy eating habits, he had open-heart surgery in third grade to correct a heart murmur. Now at 6'6" and 310 pounds, Brick is a mountain of a man anchoring the left side of the Jets offensive line.
Ferguson spoke to the audience of over 300 students and teachers, stressing the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and increased exercise. He took questions from and signed autographs for the enthusiastic K-6 students and staff.
"To have a face like D'Brickashaw Ferguson come here, students will start to look up to him as a healthy role model," said Dr. Letizia Pantoliano, Bogota superintendent of schools. "If they see something they can aspire to, it motivates them to do better."
Steen School was chosen for making changes in its menu reflecting more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The school had also demonstrated efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity among its students. In particular, Steen has two active physical education classes per week for all students and has recess every day.
"For little old Steen School in Bogota, it's a phenomenal win for us," said physical education teacher Terry Ciccone. "It's a very small school and to get something like this … we never really thought we had a chance."
The $5,000 grant will be put to good use, renovating and upgrading the small school kitchen and allowing the cafeteria staff to give the students what they've been clamoring for: fruit smoothies.
"The kids wanted those smoothies so badly, and we could only make a few at a time," said Pauline McDonnell, Steen PTO president. "We need these programs. We don't have a lot of funds, and having something like this is pretty amazing."
In addition to the visit from Ferguson and the grant, six lucky students were selected through a lottery to attend the next home game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 11. The students and select staff will also be honored on the field at the game.
Eating right and moving more is a useful motto, especially with the current concerns for childhood obesity. The program aims to combat the issue by jump-starting in-school programs in hopes of instilling positive health habits in New Jersey youth.
"The students have been excited all week," said Ciccone. "They all wore their green and white today, and they've been walking around on cloud nine in the hallways. For them, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing."