Once again, safety Erik Coleman spent his only day off tackling problems in the New York City public schools. The Jets safety and one of the team's most public figure in the community was teaming up to fight issues that have been battling healthy eating and physical fitness – matters that have been problematic in the public school systems for years.
On Tuesday morning, Coleman traveled to Stuyvesant High School on the lower west side of Manhattan to promote the "Feed Your Mind" campaign. Alongside Coleman were Eric Goldstein, chief executive of student support services; Christine C. Quinn, City Council speaker, and Kathleen Grimm, deputy chancellor for finance and administration.
One of Coleman's messages: What many young athletes may not know is that nutrition is as important as physical training.
"The things I put in my body and the activities I'm involved in, those are key components to my success," Coleman said. "The team, they do a great job of feeding us healthy foods. They even brought in our own nutritionist — that's how important it is. If I don't feed my body right, I'm going to be sluggish out on the football field, I'll be a second late, and in the classrooms during the week, I'll be falling asleep."
"Erik is a great guy," Goldstein said. "Rarely do you see stars that are of his quality be so personable, selfless and inspiring not only to kids but to adults as well. This means a lot."
The campaign is aimed at fulfilling many missing elements in the nation's second-largest meal supplying operation. With the exception of the U.S. armed forces, the New York City Public Schools system feeds more people than any other group in the country and more than double the amount of the third-largest group, the Los Angeles public schools.
Also on this day, Coleman informed students of the importance of having their parents fill out the 1041 form. This form is essential in adding not just healthier foods to the plates of nearly one million New York City students but also reduced-cost and free meals as well.
"It's really important for us because that form categorizes us in the free/reduced meals program," Goldstein said to the crowd of nearly 60 high school students. "A lot of great things can happen in this system.
"Not only do these kids get the free meals they deserve, we as a district will be able to get the money to give to schools that need it most," Goldstein said. "This is hugely important to us. We want to serve our children even better, which is why I urge parents to complete the 1041 application form."
Quinn, who was chosen by the members of the City Council in January 2006 as speaker, has been unyielding in her quest for healthier living among New Yorkers. She has also assisted low-income New Yorkers in getting better access to food stamps and have access to healthier options through the program "Food Today, Healthy Tomorrow," a nutrition and anti-hunger campaign.
"These forms are really important to helping us make sure we get money from the federal government and other sources to help pay for the school meals in our cities," Quinn said. "We really want to send the message out there about school breakfasts. Everyone is entitled to school breakfasts, regardless of the income of you and your family. It's a good thing for your health and it's a good thing for you to be more alert in your class."
Quinn even went so far as to challenge the young collection of fellow New Yorkers, drawing a huge ovation in the process.
"We have about 70 percent of students enrolled in the school breakfasts. Newark [N.J.] is at about 99 percent enrollment participation. Erik has to play in New Jersey. He's not happy about it," joked Quinn. "We don't want to be beat by Newark — that's embarrassing! You guys need to make sure you and all your friends enroll in school meals and school breakfasts, because I don't want to come back and tell you Newark is still beating us."
A bonus to the program, offered to one lucky student by the New York Jets and Burgdorff Realtors ERA, is an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Hawaii to attend the NFL Pro Bowl. One completed form, chosen at random, will be selected around late November.
"It's a big deal," Coleman said. "You and one of your parents can fly to Hawaii and hopefully check me out playing in the Pro Bowl."
Shortly after signing autographs, answering questions and posing for photos, Coleman raced back over the Brooklyn Bridge to Queens. At MS 158 Marie Curie Middle School, Coleman and members of the New York Heart Association were at it again, encouraging students to take part in physical activity through the "What Moves U" campaign.
What Moves U is a national program responding to the decline in physical education programs in the school systems and the lack of physical activity in today's youth.
"It gives me great pride to continue the What Moves U program for a second year," said Coleman. "It is very important to me that our kids know how critical it is for them to get out and play. We made great strides last year delivering this important message to kids in schools throughout New York City and Long Island. But we have more work to do and I look forward to the challenge."
Upon arriving at MS 158, Coleman laced up his sneakers and took part in a seventh-grade gym class.
"We were delighted to be a part of the What Moves U program and how it inspires our children to get up and away from the TV and video games and take part in physical activity," said principal Marie Mappi. "With Erik coming in, we've been excited for two weeks, the children have all been excited, and they were very happy to take part in the program."
After weaving in and out of cones, throwing and catching footballs, and running around with the students, Coleman gathered the entire school into the auditorium to explain the importance of the What Moves U campaign.
"It's very important to stay active," Coleman told the group of over 400. "Growing up and staying active was the key to keeping healthy and staying out of trouble. It keeps you healthy and strong and prevents diseases. I'm urging you guys to get out — not just during your physical education classes — and run around and have fun."
About New York Jets, Realogy Corporation and Burgdorff Realtors ERA: Programs funded by the New York Jets Foundation touch the lives of countless young men and women in the tristate area. Realogy Corporation, a premier global provider of real estate and relocation services, and its subsidiary companies Burgdorff Realtors ERA and Cartus, are title sponsors for all of the Jets' community relations programs.
Over the past seven years, the Jets and their charitable foundation have donated or contributed more than $7 million to promote youth health, fitness and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities. From fighting childhood obesity through the Generation Jets: Be Lean & Green initiative to launching a football team in a Harlem high school, urging students in the Bronx to eat right and move more and supporting the efforts of the Alliance for Lupus Research, the New York Jets make investments that make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to the Jets Foundation, which supports our own extensive youth initiatives, the Jets partner with numerous established charitable organizations and participate in causes sponsored by the NFL.