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Project L.E.A.N. Makes Progress in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Kendall Elementary School students recently participated in orientation as results show Jefferson School students increased health knowledge and positively impacted their body mass indexes.

Ruthann Walsh, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Pepperidge Farm measures the height of a Kendall Elementary student. Contributed photo
Ruthann Walsh, Director, Corporate Citizenship, Pepperidge Farm measures the height of a Kendall Elementary student. Contributed photo

Recently the second, third and fourth grader at Kendall Elementary School participated in orientation for Project L.E.A.N. (Learning with Energy from Activity and Nutrition), an innovative program that aims to lower the childhood obesity rate in Norwalk, which exceeds the national average. Project L.E.A.N. was created through collaboration between Pepperidge Farm, Norwalk Hospital and the Norwalk Health Department. 

Results from the first three-year pilot program at Jefferson Science Magnet School (Jefferson School), show the program is working. More than 90 percent of Project L.E.A.N. students are now aware of the risks caused by an unhealthy weight and know how to make good food choices. The students showed they understand they are in control of what they eat and that good nutrition and physical activity are essential to their health. 

In addition, almost 70 percent of Project L.E.A.N. students had a body mass index (BMI) in the healthy range, an important health indicator defined by the American Medical Association. As a result of Project L.E.A.N’s success, during the 2013-2014 school year, the program will be permanently integrated into Jefferson Elementary School’s curriculum. 

“After three years of dedicated programming, we’re encouraged to see Project L.E.A.N. making a marked improvement on the health of the students participating,” said Ruthann Walsh, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Pepperidge Farm. “The program’s success is due to the commitment from Jefferson School, and the valuable partnership between Norwalk Hospital, the Norwalk Department of Health and Pepperidge Farm, and we’re excited to bring the program to the Kendall students.” 

Project L.E.A.N. improves the overall health of students by teaching them the lifelong habits of eating well and exercising often. The program includes a “Breakfast Boot Camp,” where children arrive at school early for 45 minutes of exercise followed by a healthy breakfast, in-school nutrition classes taught by a registered dietician from Norwalk Hospital’s Clinical Nutrition Department, and monthly parent engagement events, including cooking demonstrations, to ensure parent involvement in the program. The three-year program was introduced to second graders and they participated as they progressed through third and fourth grade. 

“Through Project L.E.A.N. we’ve impacted the health of our students, who, as a result, come to school motivated and ready to learn, allowing us to accomplish our academic goals,” said John Reynolds, Principal, Jefferson Elementary School. 

Jefferson Elementary was chosen as the initial pilot school for the program because it is the largest elementary school in Norwalk and has a large population of children who receive free or reduced rate lunches, an indicator of financial need. Similarly, Kendall elementary school is the second largest elementary school in Norwalk, and also serves a high percent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds. 

“I am so pleased that Kendall will be the next school in Norwalk to implement Project L.E.A.N.,” said Tony Ditrio, Principal, Kendall Elementary School in the release. “Our students, teachers and parents are excited to get started, and to see the positive impact of good nutrition and exercise on the students.” With the program’s expansion to Kendall Elementary School, Project L.E.A.N. will now reach 600 Norwalk students. 


About Pepperidge Farm 
Pepperidge Farm, Incorporated, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, is a leading provider of premium quality fresh bakery products, cookies, crackers, and frozen foods. Among the company’s most popular products are Sausalito® and Milano® cookies, Goldfish® and baked Naturals® crackers, frozen Puff Pastry, frozen garlic loaves and Texas toasts, and more than 50 varieties of fresh baked breads including Pepperidge Farm® Swirl, Farmhouse and Whole Grain. The company added Ecce Panis® gourmet artisan breads to its portfolio in 2009. Pepperidge Farm was founded in Connecticut in 1937 by Margaret Rudkin, an entrepreneurial homemaker who began baking fresh bread for her allergy-afflicted son. The company is now a nationwide business with 9 manufacturing facilities and almost 5,000 employees. Pepperidge Farm has been part of Campbell Soup Company since 1961. 

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