LAUGH teaches children lessons in good health

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By Jesef Williams

The aim is to eat more fruits and vegetables, rather than junk food, and to exercise more instead of spending time in front of the TV.

After two weeks of fun and information, a dozen area children have a better understanding of what it takes to reach those goals.

The University of South Carolina at Lancaster recently concluded its first 2008 summer session for LAUGH, which stands for Learning and Understanding Good Health.

The program, geared toward children ages 6 through 10, is funded by the J. Marion Sims Foundation and Partners for Youth. It's been in existence for several years now.

Each day, the LAUGH staff led 12 participants through 45 minutes of physical activity and 30 minutes of nutrition education. After that, they swam at the pool at the Gregory Health and Wellness Center.

De'Ashia Fisher, 7, enjoyed the swimming, but has a whole bunch of other activities she likes that will keep her fit.

"You can do push-ups and jump rope and walk your dog," she said.

Keli Lathan, a LAUGH fitness coordinator, said the students and their parents were given a take-home notebook containing fitness charts and nutritional facts for common foods and local restaurant items.

There's a long list of foods that Jadah Twitty is trying to eat less of now.

"Donuts, cheeseburgers and fries," she said. "You can't eat too much ice cream."

On June 26, the last day of the program, the staff talked to the participants and their families about ways to eat healthy. They prepared several healthy dishes that included low-fat pastas and vegetable pizzas.

Millie Stover signed her granddaughter, Niya Mack, up for LAUGH to motivate her to eat better. Stover says Mack already likes vegetables, but she could probably eat less fast food.

"Kids like to eat anything," she said. "But those hamburgers and fries aren't good for them."

LAUGH will continue July 14 to July 24 and Aug. 11 to 14. The July session will be for 6- to 10-year-olds and the August one is for children 11 and up.

For details, call Pam Giardiello at (803) 313-7199.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152