GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When Laura Allen received a grant from Gulf Coast Medical Alliance, she put together some healthy cooking field trips for her students at Bayou View Middle School. Then she found them a dietician, at no charge, from Gulf Coast Health Educators, a non profit group funded by the United Way.
Allen is hoping all these resources right here in our own community will give these children new, healthy habits they can carry into adulthood.
Most of the 6th grade gifted students never even thought about what's in the food they eat. That is, until Registered Dietician Deborah Colby with Gulf Coast Health Educators opened their eyes.
On the day we stopped by their classroom, we found the students in a race to create a well balanced meal using just a McDonald's menu.
"It was a challenge for them to plan a meal with all five good groups staying within the calorie the fat and the sodium allotment," Colby said. "Within about 30 to 40 minutes, I think we had five students who were able to achieve it, but they had to change their menu items three and four times."
Nutritional exercises like this one, along with growing fresh produce in the classroom, are all part of Teacher Laura Allen's theme this year: Healthy in mind, body and spirit.
"We're gonna be working throughout the year on food, on food preparation, exercise, on gardening," Allen said.
With all of that come so many life lessons. Logan Ward learned ways to help his little brother more.
"The burgers, I don't really eat them, but my brother does and he has diabetes," Ward said. "So now I can help watch out for his sugar, his blood sugar."
And Britton Simpson learned that maybe Mother does know best.
"It's going to affect the foods that I choose and the way I eat," he said. "My Mom's tried to explain it to me a little bit, but this definitely changes it."
To enrich her sixth graders' souls, Ms. Allen uses and highly recommends the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Author Sean Covey.