ROSELAND, NJ — Students in the West Essex YMCA’s after-school program at Lester C. Noecker School in Roseland learned about composting with worms, taste-tested vegetables and calculated the amounts of sugar in popular soft drinks at an Oct. 18 event to inspire healthy eating.

Students saw composting worms in action and learned from guest speaker Marigold Mike (AKA Michael Bedrick, owner of Let’s Bloom Together in Morristown) how they contribute to healthy soil for gardens. The children used math skills to calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are in Coke, Gatorade and Mountain Dew, and also learned to make a less-sugary sparkling drink out of apple juice and seltzer.

“This year’s theme for our Healthy U celebration was Farm-to-School, to help kids make the connection to making good food choices,” said Joanne Browne, senior director of School Age Child Care at the West Essex YMCA. “Every year, we recommit to the Healthy U program, which teaches about healthy eating and exercise, to set children up for lifelong healthy habits.”

Sign Up for E-News

The New Jersey YMCA State Alliance and the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey created Healthy U in 2008 to combat childhood obesity, an epidemic that puts kids at risk for serious health problems. It’s estimated that one in three children is obese or overweight.

Healthy U touches the lives of more than 46,000 children statewide at more than 500 YMCAs and elementary schools. It is now the largest and most comprehensive childhood obesity prevention program in the country. The Horizon Foundation has invested nearly $5 million in Healthy U.

The West Essex YMCA in Livingston is a branch of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey with more than 35,000 members.

Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges President and CEO Richard K. Gorab, Horizon Foundation for New Jersey Executive Director Jonathan Pearson, and NJ Alliance of YMCAs Executive Director William Lovett attended the event.