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Chelsea Clinton Pays a Visit to a Healthy School

Friday, September 23, 2011 - 06:14 PM

When Chelsea Clinton paid a birthday visit to Public School 123 Suydam in Brooklyn on Friday morning, Ms. Clinton said she was pleased “not to be having birthday cake with all of you. But I look forward to having healthy smoothies, and watching yoga.”

P.S. 123 celebrated 110 years of schooling today, but the smoothie snack-time Ms. Clinton admires is part of a newer initiative.

Ms. Clinton, who sits on the board of the William J. Clinton Foundation, which created the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in conjunction with the American Heart Association in 2005, came to recognize the school's work in a campaign to fight obesity in children. The foundation was started by her father, the former president.

The Brooklyn school was one out of 275 nationwide to receive the honor, as determined by a formula that looked at school meals, employee wellness and physical education practices, officials with the foundation said.

After a short student assembly, Ms. Clinton, who is herself a vegetarian and known for her healthy lifestyle, toured the halls with the principal, Veronica Green. She stopped to admire the fruitful artwork and a teacher’s spin on traditional grading practices. “Oh I see, instead of stars you award apples,” said Ms. Clinton.

Stepping into one classroom, Ms. Clinton, 31, watched and smiled at the first-graders sitting cross-legged on their mats, palms up, listening as their teacher intoned, “Relax, relax,” before drawing up to a mountain pose, to “stretch up just like a mountain.”

As Ms. Clinton observed the students stretching, she remarked “After my dad’s surgery, I knew I needed to do something to encourage healthier lifestyles.”

The former president, who was overweight as a teenager and spent much of his adult life struggling with his weight, helped create the anti-obesity program after he underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in 2004.

Students aren’t the only ones affected by the move toward healthier habits. According to Stefanie Britton, a music teacher, some teachers are starting a Weight Watchers group, and Ms. Britton is trying to rally together some teachers to do a 5K. Ms. Green also said that parents are encouraged to join their children in their afternoon yoga class, and often come to school to dance Zumba on the weekends.

But can some kids’ tastes really change?

Rayquan Curry, a third-grader, was picking lettuce from the school garden when he said that his tastes have definitely changed.

“Now, since my last birthday, my favorite food is salad," Rayquan said. "Just the green stuff. Delicious, magnificent. Maybe some tomatoes thrown in there, a little steak, try to mix it up, you know what I mean? A glass of O.J., and I’m probably going to have a good day.”

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