WEST ORANGE, NJ — The popular National Football League health and fitness initiative Fuel Up to Play 60 made a special appearance at Liberty Middle School on Tuesday accompanied by Jonnothan Harrison of the New York Jets, who gave students some nutrition tips before leading them in a seventh grade vs. eighth grade fitness challenge. 

Students from both grades enjoyed a morning of talks, exercise drills and healthy eating samples from the American Dairy Association thanks to grants that the West Orange Public School district has received from the NFL. During the three years that the district has been affiliated with Fuel Up to Play 60, the grant money has provided nutritional options by food services provider Sodexo and sports equipment for district gym classes.

“We’ve been involved with the program for a couple of years, and we visited the facility in Florham Park with students a couple years ago, but to follow up with this and be provided with equipment from the program is just so valuable for our students,” said Liberty Principal Robert Klemt. “To have them go through this and meet Jonnathan is a special day. These kids will remember this for a long time. To have a person here to meet and speak and compete with us is special, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

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Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council, the NFL and the United States Department of Agriculture to support young people in leading healthier lives. Grant money in West Orange continues to support the initiative to expose physical education staff and students to the concepts of the Fuel Up to Play 60 philosophy.

In the past, select students have been invited to MetLife stadium for a Fuel Up to Play 60 training camp, where Harrison once again discussed the value of healthy eating and exercise. Students from four of West Orange’s schools also met a dairy farmer, participated in a “Shark Tank” activity to create a slogan that provided a healthier lunch option, joined in football drills and enjoyed a nutritious lunch.

To the delight of West Orange Director of Physical Education Kevin Alvine, Food Services Director Josh Kreutz and the Liberty Middle School staff, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program came directly to the school this year.

“Today we have an NFL player from the Jets who is here to see first-hand how we have used our grant money to make our school a healthier place for students,” said Kreutz. “He wanted to come here today—he was not forced to, he chose to come.”

Alvine said that having the program provide the school with equipment adds to the fact that Liberty students “have terrific role models” in their physical education teachers.

“We really encourage you guys to work out and exercise, not only here in PE class, but outside in your everyday life,” said Alvine.

The school staff thanked Harrison for not only leading the physical portion of the event, but for also encouraging the kids to give healthy foods a chance.

Harrison joined a registered dietitian in mixing together smoothies that the students had an opportunity to taste. Many of the students who said they did not like spinach, admitted that they couldn’t even taste it in their smoothie and said they would have enjoyed a similar smoothie for breakfast at home.

A handful of students went home with signed equipment for winning either a nutrition or physical challenge, including push-up contests, a race to separate dairy vs. non-dairy products and more. The fastest male and fastest female from the final fitness challenge—an obstacle course designed after typical football drills—also went home with a prize. 

Click HERE to learn more about the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.