“Coach” (left) shows “Janey Junkfood” some delicious and nutritious breakfast options during a presentation of “FoodPlay,” a theater show that uses entertainment to teach children about good nutrition and healthy eating and exercise habits. FoodPlay was presented at Lincoln Elementary School in Princeton, Ill., to more than 200 second- and third-grade students.
“Coach” (left) shows “Janey Junkfood” some delicious and nutritious breakfast options during a presentation of “FoodPlay,” a theater show that uses entertainment to teach children about good nutrition and healthy eating and exercise habits. FoodPlay was presented at Lincoln Elementary School in Princeton, Ill., to more than 200 second- and third-grade students.

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 Association.

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 said.

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 foods.’”

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 session.

“FoodPlay” was brought to Illinois by the soybean association as part of celebrating April as National Soyfoods Month.