Babb Middle awarded grant to fight child obesity

Photo by Jeylin White
Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end, Chuck Smith, bursts through a banner at Babb Middle School, Thursday, as part of a program emphasizing ways to fight childhood obesity.

Photo by Jeylin White Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end, Chuck Smith, bursts through a banner at Babb Middle School, Thursday, as part of a program emphasizing ways to fight childhood obesity.

“What you put in your body, is what will come out,” said Chuck Smith, the retired defensive end, and former captain of the Atlanta Falcons, in his address to scores of youngsters, at Babb Middle School, on Thursday.

Smith had made a grand entrance, bursting through a banner students made in his honor. He was there, along with the school’s staff members and teachers to help celebrate a $4,000 grant Babb had received through an initiative of the National Football League, called, “Fuel Up to Play 60,” which is designed to fight childhood obesity. According to the Fuel Up to Play 60 web site, the initiative –– an in-school nutrition and physical activity program –– was launched in conjunction with National Dairy Council (NDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Smith, who works as a personal trainer for other football players, said that during his playing career, he often spoke out about the health risks associated with the sport, considering the ever-increasing size and strength of the players, which made the need to be well-nourished, and in good shape, essential. He said he has now turned his attention to youths.

“I want to be an example of where you can be, if you take care of your body,” said Smith. “ The reason I was able to become a college graduate and play in the NFL was because I fueled up and ate a nutritious plate ... It takes 60 minutes to play an NFL game,” he told the youngsters. “So you have to fuel up and stay active.”

The sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students seem to be spell-bound as the brawny Smith shared his journey of becoming a professional football player with them. Smith showed the students an old, rusted, football helmet that he said his mother had purchased for $7 at a garage sale when he was a child. The audience erupted with laughter, but for Smith, it was not a joking matter. He said, as a youngster, he played football for the first time in that helmet and was knocked to the ground. Why? Because he was not putting the right things in his body, he said.

He said that moment was a valuable lesson for him. From that point on, he began to eat correctly, stay active, and went on to become a successful college student and football player, and captain of the Atlanta Falcons.

Terry Charles, who works for the Southeast United Dairy Association and is the account manager for Babb Middle School, said the challenge is to “teach students in school about healthy eating, show them different types of healthy foods and snacks to consume, how to be physically active -- while making it fun.”

Other highlights of the celebration included school staffers and students competing against one another in a relay race; the school’s dance team demonstrating the basics of Zumba –– Latin aerobics –– and Smith calling upon a student to help with a brief, improvisational skit about choosing to be active rather than sitting around playing video games.

Lilian Mitchell, the family consumer science teacher at the school, who was also responsible for applying for the grant, said the funds will be used to purchase equipment to help students make positive changes, by improving opportunities to consume nutrient-rich foods and get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

“We will use half the money for fitness to start a Zumba [class] after school two days a week, and it will be open to students and faculty members, or anybody who wants to join in,” said Mitchell. “The class will go for one hour.”

She added that even before the grant, the school already had several health-and-fitness programs in place, through the Family Health and Consumer Science program, in which students could create fitness tapes and serve “fruit and vegetable” smoothies during lunch period. She said this grant will allow them to expand those programs.

“It’s extremely important that our students are exercising everyday, and that they’re eating healthy, because we want to fight childhood obesity,” said Felicia Brown, the principal at Babb Middle. “We want to make sure our students are ready to go, and not sitting in front of a computer and playing video games in the house everyday, but get out and exercise.”