SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ -- From healthy fats to fitness tips to science facts, seventh graders from Park Middle School and Terrill Middle School in Scotch Plains-Fanwood, and from St. John the Apostle School and Carl H. Kumpf Middle School in Clark will focus their brain power on health as they compete in the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee at the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA (1340 Martine Ave.) on Thursday, March 23. 

Since October 2016, students have been preparing for the Health Bee, a quiz show-style competition designed to get middle-school students excited about health, fitness and nutrition. UnitedHealthcare will award the winning team $1,000 to support school programs that fight childhood obesity and $500 to the second-place team. Meanwhile, $250 will go to the school with the most school spirit. (Teams are invites to bring their school mascots and fellow students to cheer them on at the high-energy competition.)

According to this year’s America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report, physical activity in New Jersey has declined. Studies have shown that seventh grade is a critical time in pre-teens’ development during which they begin to form healthy habits and attitudes about self esteem and body image that will last into adulthood.

To help set students on a path to good health, the insurance company teamed up with five local New Jersey YMCAs for its annual UnitedHealthcare Health Bee as part of the YMCA’s 7th Grade Initiative. Additionally, UnitedHealthcare will award a participating New Jersey YMCA with a $30,000 grant to implement a childhood obesity community project. The grant recipient will be announced at the Somerset County YMCA on May 10.