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NYer Of The Week: Nancie Katz Has Kids Run Produce Market To Teach Them To Be Healthy

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Encouraging children to eat healthy can be tough in a city filled with fast food temptations, but this week's New Yorker has found a way: by getting them to be in charge of their very own produce market. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following report.

Two years ago, students at P.S. 221 in Crown Heights never would have guessed they'd be counting fruit. In fact, many of them didn't even know what a pineapple was.

As an investigative reporter covering education stories in Crown Heights, Nancie Katz had seen both the problems, and the potential, facing students.

"There's nothing decent to eat around here," Katz said. "This is the food desert. This is the center of the obesity epidemic."

That's when she realized fighting obesity starts in schools.

"A study came out with the Department of Education, the Department of Health, that said that Central Brooklyn, Harlem and the South Bronx were the three areas with the highest obesity epidemic of children, and on top of that, it said test scores of children who were healthier were an average of 36 points higher than the children who were least healthy," Katz said.

With the help of fourth graders, Katz founded Seeds in the Middle, a program that teaches students about nutrition and accounting by running a fresh produce market, Hip2B Healthy.

"In this community, there's not really that much healthy places to go for getting your right nutrients," said student Emmanuel Wilson. "But now, I eat more salad."

"Yes I did eat a lot of junk food," said student Mahliya Smith. "But when the Hip2B Healthy market came, it helped to make me more stronger and more energetic."

Not only are they stronger and more energetic now, the students also are performing better in class, and passing the message on.

"Doing the math to count the money, keeping inventory. So all of this, we saw how it interrelated not only to health but to academics," said Clara Moodie-Kirkland, principal at P.S. 221. "Parents began to say to me, 'You know what, Ms. Kirkland? When we go to the store, my kids are looking on the label to see how much sugar is in the cereal. 'Mommy, that's too much sugar. We shouldn't be having that much sugar.'"

So, for making healthy food hip, Nancie Katz is our New Yorker of the Week.

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