Terenure steps up to the plate on childhood obesity

Campaign teaches schoolchildren about portion sizes

Terenure schoolchildren Cillian McCabe, Caolainn McCabe, Alannah Murphy, Aisling Phelan, Darragh Murphy, Gavan Coyle, Rachel Coyle and Amy McCabe from St Joseph’s BNS and Presentation Primary School displaying the portion plates they designed as part of the Get Wise About Portion Size campaign. Photograph: Ned Kelly

Terenure schoolchildren Cillian McCabe, Caolainn McCabe, Alannah Murphy, Aisling Phelan, Darragh Murphy, Gavan Coyle, Rachel Coyle and Amy McCabe from St Joseph’s BNS and Presentation Primary School displaying the portion plates they designed as part of the Get Wise About Portion Size campaign. Photograph: Ned Kelly

Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 01:00

Children often have too much on their plate. This is the message from the grassroots campaign Get Wise About Portion Size which is educating school children in Terenure, Dublin, about the kind of portions they should be eating. The wider aim is to help address childhood obesity.

About 2,000 children attending five primary schools in Terenure have participated in the initiative which is supported by the Irish Heart Foundation.

The campaign’s simple hands-on message is that a balanced meal should consist of the following: two portions of vegetables or fruit each equal in size to the child’s fist, one fist-sized portion of carbohydrates and a portion of lean meat equal in size and thickness to the child’s palm.

Food types
To cement the idea in their minds the children also used arts and crafts, marking out a suitable segment for each food type on a paper plate and drawing or pasting the food types into each segment.

Hundred of these plates are now on display in local businesses around Terenure, and last night parents were invited to a community presentation to see the fruits of their children’s labour.

Founder Fiona Phelan came up with the idea for the initiative following the My Plate campaign, launched by Michelle Obama in 2011, which saw the the traditional food pyramid replaced with a portion plate.

“It’s such a small thing but it makes such a big difference,” Ms Whelan said. “The plate is a really simple tool which teaches children the components of a healthy meal.

“Education has to be visual and if you use your hands you’ll learn better, so it was about getting the children to do something different to learn about nutrition in the classroom,” she said, adding that in educating children they were also educating their parents through the “nag factor”.

She says the impact locally has been phenomenal.

“It’s grassroots and it’s real; when you get a whole community behind you like this the knock-on effect is enormous and the children love it.

Community spirit
“This project didn’t cost any money – just time and community spirit,” she said, adding that she would be delighted to see other communities follow suit.