ELKHART – To the kids, it wasn't a lesson on getting more exercise -- it was a dance party.
Mary Beck Elementary in Elkhart hosted Managed Health Services and Radio Disney for a healthy lifestyles event on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 13.
The goal, according to Principal Richie Mendez, was to teach kids healthy habits so they could influence their parents at home.
"Our community lacks proper eating and health," Mendez said, later adding that parents know what healthy food is, but they think they can't afford it.
Representatives from Radio Disney led about 300 kindergarten, first and second grade students in a dance contest. Students showed off their moves, and found out that their teachers had some moves too. Managed Health Services helped get the party started by passing out red and blue pom-poms and foam fingers.
Students also learned some healthy eating tips from Dr. Eric Yancy of Managed Health Services. He said it's important to teach kids about healthy eating at a young age.
"Once you get to 16, it's very hard to break unhealthy habits," Yancy said.
As for local people who may think they can't afford healthy food, Yancy said there must be a "community effort" to make healthier food available for everyone.
Later, during a health fair for parents, a Purdue Extension employee offered more thoughts about how to eat healthy food without spending much money.
Stephanie Polei, of the Elkhart County Purdue Extension office, made a vegetable stir-fry dish with the help of some students. She said that when it comes to buying vegetables, canned or frozen versions are cheaper than fresh but offer the same nutritional benefits.
There's also no need to buy organic if money is an issue, she said.
Parents who came to the afternoon session learned fitness tips from local personal trainer Christy Mishler, including a "TV commercial workout."
Other organizations, including the Northern Hispanic Health Coalition, Heart City Health Center, and Community Action of Northeast Indiana, did health screenings and checks for attendees.
Managed Health Services also donated $500 to the school, which will be used to buy new equipment for gym class.