PRINCETON, Ill. — Janey Junkfood could be a juggling star
and on the National Junior Juggling Team, except for one thing.
“I didn’t have time for breakfast,” Janey told Coach as she
skipped onto the stage.
In fact, the last meal she ate was at 6 p.m. the day before
her big training day.
“It’s past nine in the morning now. That means your body has
been without fuel for 15 hours. That’s like trying to drive a car with no gas —
impossible!” Coach said.
Not eating a regular and healthy breakfast was just one of
the problems Janey and Coach talked over with an audience of more than 200
second- and third-grade students at Lincoln Elementary School in Princeton.
Coach and Janey are the stars of “FoodPlay,” a national
touring show that uses an interactive performance to talk about nutrition and
good eating and exercise habits with children.
Coach is the coach of the National Junior Juggling Team and
the team’s nutritionist. Janey is one of his would-be juggling stars who has
some problems knowing what’s good and what’s not so good to eat.
“FoodPlay,” which originated in the New York City public
school system, was sponsored at 40 schools in Illinois by the Illinois Soybean
The show is designed to use live actors, music, juggling and
audience interaction to talk to children about nutrition. The show also
emphasizes the role of soy in a balanced and healthy diet.
“Kids, you don’t need to do amazing feats of juggling to
wind up with some breakfast in the morning. Just do what I do and grab something
nutritious, like some fruit and cheese or a yogurt and a banana. Or make
yourself a strawberry soymilk smoothie. How about an egg, hard boiled?” Coach
Any issues that children have with food allergies, such as
nut allergies or lactose issues, also were addressed. When Janey tells Coach
that her sister can’t drink dairy because milk gives her stomachaches, Coach has
a healthful option.
“Some kids do have trouble drinking milk, but they still
need to get calcium to build their bones. They can try soymilk. I love soymilk.
It tastes great, and it’s packed with calcium!” said Coach to Janey.
Popular, but not so healthy food choices, such as soda and
fast foods, also were included.
The audience, seated on the floor of the school’s gym,
stayed involved and interested, and the students displayed their knowledge of
good and bad food choices, the “go foods” and the “whoa foods.”
When Janey proclaimed her love of soda because “everybody
drinks it, all the coolest athletes, movie stars and rock stars,” Coach called
on his audience to help when he told Janey that those celebrities are paid to
endorse soda and sports drinks.
“Is it really that bad for you?” Janey asked Coach.
“Yes!” the audience of schoolchildren chorused together.
Coach then led the audience in a bilingual Spanish counting
exercise, where he and the audience counted out the 10 teaspoons of sugar in a
can of soda.
Coach and Janey also talked to their audience about the food
advertising directed at children.
“You all know it’s important to eat right, yes? But what’s
not always easy to know is what’s right to eat,” Coach said. “That’s because you
kids are bombarded with TV commercials, over 10,000 food ads every year, all
trying to get you to buy the stuff that’s not good for you, like ‘whoa
Coach and Janey also taught their young audience about food
labels and how to read a food label — that the first ingredient listed is the
food product’s main ingredient.
“Read it before you eat it,” said Coach, leading the
audience through the rhyme.
He and Janey also talked about the importance of exercise
and physical activity. They then led the audience in some exercises during the
“FoodPlay” was brought to Illinois by the soybean
association as part of celebrating April as National Soyfoods Month.