‘Jump With Jill’ rocks with nutrition in mind

By: Maria Allard | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 29, 2013

 Garden City native Hailey McDonell performs as Jill during the “Jump With Jill” show May 13 at Mark Twain Elementary in Fraser Public Schools. The rock concert encourages students to eat healthy and stay active.

Garden City native Hailey McDonell performs as Jill during the “Jump With Jill” show May 13 at Mark Twain Elementary in Fraser Public Schools. The rock concert encourages students to eat healthy and stay active.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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Junk food is everywhere, and most often, it is very appealing to young children.

Trying to get kids to eat nutritional meals can be a challenge, but there’s one group out there using rock ‘n’ roll to encourage students to take healthier bites.

On May 13, the “Jump With Jill” program danced its way over to Mark Twain Elementary in Fraser Public Schools. The program — featuring Hailey McDonell as Jill, and disc jockey Devon Watson — is a live show that mixes nutrition education with a full-throttle rock ‘n’ roll show. “Jump With Jill” uses the same tools used to sell junk food, but instead encourages healthy food choices and physical activity.

Mark Twain was recently awarded the Healthier US Schools Challenge bronze award for the 2012-13 school year. To celebrate the accomplishment, Fraser’s food management company ARAMARK sponsored “Jump With Jill.”

The school gym looked like a rock concert. Four drums — with all kinds of food on each — were spaced out along McDonell’s performance area; a frying pan and wooden spoon served as instruments during song and dance numbers; and Watson entertained from his DJ booth.

“Are you ready to rock?” McDonell, wearing a headset, wanted to know. “Let’s take a look at the foods you could have for breakfast. My favorite kind of breakfast is yogurt.”

McDonell’s rock star look was ’80s-retro: pink pants, a purple shirt, blue jean jacket, jangling bracelets and colorful high-top tennis shoes. It wasn’t hard for the singer to get the kids moving, dancing and singing along throughout the high-energy show. The rock star nutritionist even went into the crowd at times.

The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables were a big part of the show.

“I like to call fruit ‘nature’s candy.’ Fruit is so good for my body and it gives me energy,” the singer said. “If sweet-tasting fruit isn’t enough for you, power your plate with vegetables. There are so many vegetables to choose from, and they are so good for you. Vegetables not only prevent heart disease and cancer, but they help us to look fabulous. They are great for our skin, our hair, our muscles, our eyes and our bones.”

But veggies don’t always taste good, so McDonell urged the students to keep trying different ones “until you find the ones you like.” She even had them pledge, “I promise to try a new vegetable within the next week.”

Physical activity and the importance of hydration were covered, too.

“Did you ever notice after you exercise, you get thirsty?” McDonell asked. “Because you get sweaty, we’re losing water from our bodies and we need to replace it. There is nothing like a cold glass of water.”

At the show’s end, first-graders Kamryn Peppers and Anthony St. John; fourth-grader Kyndall Franklin; third-grader Jojo Palasick; fifth-graders Morgana Pruitt and Noah Dunford; and fifth-grade teacher Jodi Lombard played rock star with instruments and necklaces with a large “J” on them.

“The messages are great,” said district Food Service Director Mandy Sosnowski. “It’s really appealing to the kids at their level by incorporating music with a healthy message.”

School officials are always trying to offer healthy alternatives to students.

“Fruit and veggie bars are at all the schools,” Sosnowski said. “We always have newsletters that feature different tips.”

Jill Jayne created the “Jump With Jill” show. McDonell, a Garden City native, said it started out as a free street show in New York City’s Central Park in 2006. “Jump With Jill” includes a number of cast members. The show has traveled throughout the United States and Europe. Watson is a native of Holland, Mich.

“We want kids to make healthy habits more popular and cooler than eating junk,” McDonell said. “There is so much advertising for junk food. With child obesity on the rise, there needs to be something out there.”

For more information on “Jump With Jill,” visit www.jumpwithjill.com.

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