Ridin’ Thru Da ‘Hood

Lil’ Red, Big Boy and Gran’ma entertained children at the Athens Area Boys and Girls Club earlier this month as well as teaching them how to eat healthier and get plenty of exercise during a performance of “Lil Red Ridin’ Thru Da ‘Hood.”

Written by Caree Jackson, a second-year foods and nutrition master’s student in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, the play uses live theater, hip-hop music, dance steps and audience participation to teach important lessons about nutrition and exercise. The play was performed by Jackson and members of the UGA Black Theatrical Ensemble. It was directed by Lauren Jones of BTE.

The play is one of several projects under way by foods and nutrition faculty members to fight obesity. Department head Rebecca Mullis is heading a project in 22 Atlanta elementary schools targeting the nutrition and physical activity habits of fourth graders and their families. Her project uses a combination of educational tools, including videos that the children take home and share with their families. Jackson’s play was originally performed in the Atlanta schools as part of Mullis’ project.

Mullis and her colleagues also are working with representatives of the Medical College of Georgia on a project in Wilkes County, Georgia, that is an outgrowth of the Georgia Center for the Prevention of Obesity and Related Disorders. By working with business and industry, religious and community organizations, and the schools, Wilkes County citizens are receiving nutrition education and programs designed to encourage more exercise. One program is “Tiger Tracks,” a walking program at an elementary school that allows children to earn “Tiger Bucks” based on how much they walk. The Tiger Bucks can be traded for various items, such as CDs and toys.

Additionally, Ruth Harris, associate professor of foods and nutrition, has received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify the mechanisms in brain and fat tissue that are responsible for that sustained weight loss in rats. And two foods and nutrition students were recently recognized by the Georgia Nutrition Council for their work in the area of obesity. Jackson and Cherie Rooks, a master’s student in Harris’ lab, were each awarded a first place prize. The judges ruled that both projects