A welcome banner and a special cheer for New York Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson kicked off a fun and educational morning in the auditorium of Heywood Elementary School in Orange, N.J., last Thursday. With last year's first-round pick standing at 6'6" and 312 pounds, the third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders looked up to him in more ways than one.
Ferguson, the spokesman for the Eat Right, Move More campaign, paid a visit to the school to applaud administrators for their nutritional policies and to encourage the students to enjoy the nutritious foods offered in the cafeteria. During his remarks to the well-behaved students, Ferguson said: "Food and working out are the basic foundation whether you want to be an excellent dancer, basketball player or football player. I like to see youth follow their dreams in a healthy manner so that when they have the opportunity to play those sports at a higher level, their bodies won't fail them."
Ferguson also peppered his remarks with lots of fun facts about his personal and professional life – facts that later served as the basis for a game of trivia during which all the students got to compete for prizes such as signed footballs, T-shirts and baseball caps.
The Jets, in conjunction with New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine and the state's Department of Agriculture, launched Eat Right, Move More last year at the Columbus Elementary School in Lodi. The campaign is a joint effort between the Jets and the state to encourage New Jersey school children to take advantage of healthy foods in their school cafeterias and become more active. Ferguson is featured on posters in every New Jersey school telling students: "When I have a healthy meal, it helps me play my best. Your school cafeteria has a variety of nutritious foods to keep you going all day long. So get up, eat right and move more!"
Heywood Avenue Elementary was one of the schools chosen to receive Jets player visits as part of the Eat Right, Move More contest, which challenged New Jersey schools to submit their meal menus to determine the five schools that have the most creative meal selections and have made the most significant changes to improve their school nutrition environment.
The Orange School District began the school year 100 percent compliant with the state's Model School Nutrition Policy, a full year ahead of the deadline of September 2007. School administrators say they began implementing healthier eating and lifestyle policies two years ago.
Heywood Avenue, which has 387 students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, conducts a Stop and Stretch program each morning during which students stretch or exercise to music for two minutes. The school hosts an annual health fair that features screenings and health information. And many of the students participate in the district-wide Marching Majestics drill team. In the cafeteria, beside the healthier menu offerings, students are encouraged to taste a fruit or vegetable of the month each Thursday. April's fruit is apricot.
To be eligible to apply for Eat Right, Move More, schools must participate in the national school lunch program, a federally funded program to ensure all children have access to a wholesome meal during the school day, which is administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
The other winning schools in the Eat Right, Move More contest that will be visited by Jets players in May are: Sandman Consolidated Elementary School, Lower Township; J. Ackerman Coles Elementary School, Scotch Plains; Springfield Township Elementary School, and Brielle Elementary School.