Marc Vetri helping kids invest in a healthy future

PHILADELPHIA - March 27, 2014

Thursday and Friday lunches at the Global Leadership Academy are very special. Professional chefs join the regular staff in the kitchen to create fun, fresh, and delicious dishes.

It's one element in the school's partnership in the 3-year Healthy Futures project.

The goal is to find out what works or doesn't in improving kids' health.

Lorina Marshall Blake from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation tells us, "This whole program is comprehensive. It's that - eat right, get fit, stay well."

Renowned chef Marc Vetri was anxious to be part of Healthy Futures. As a dad, Vetri knew school lunches could use a nutritional boost. But he also thought the traditional lunchroom needed a makeover.

Vetri explains, "Social interaction was non-existent. Everyone was at these long tables."

So, Vetri's "Eatiquette" program uses mealtime to teach healthy eating and social skills and cooperation.

The academy's CEO, Dr. Naomi Johnson Booker, couldn't agree more. From the beginning, the school has had round tables, and adults as role models.

Booker says, "They can talk to one another. My staff is eating with them - I eat with them."

She believes the atmosphere translates into better behavior, and students love taking part in setting up and serving.

Beyond the lunchroom, professional trainers show that being active is fun, and doesn't take special equipment. The children are taught exercises that can be done at home with the whole family.

Students in the 20 schools involved in Healthy Futures will also receive medical screenings and other wellness help.

In 3 or 4 years we should have a better idea how to make the next generation healthier.

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