Pedal Power: Smoothie bike steers kids to healthy breakfast foods

Pedal Power: Smoothie bike steers kids to healthy breakfast foods

Riding a bike with a blender full of smoothies on the back isn’t how most people pedal.

But at Bentley Middle School, cycling recently took a new twist at breakfast. The Smoothie Bike, as it was dubbed, consisted of a blender strapped onto the luggage rack on the back of a bike. The blender was powered by the turning of the wheels so each person could get on and whir the delicious mix of yogurt, fruits, and vegetables inside into a healthy drink.

Needless to say, it was a hit.

The morning activity was part of the United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched in conjunction with the NFL and the USDA that stresses sound nutrition and at least an hour of daily physical activity.

Bentley Middle School Principal Chris Brockman gets moving on her smoothie bike, a bicycle-powered blender that whips up the healthy treat at the school’s smoothie breakfast. Photo by Alvin Brown

The bike and blend was also an effort to show students how easy it is to be healthy, to show the simplicity of getting on a bike (provided by none other than Principal Chris Brockman) and spinning the wheels, topped off by eating clean, whole foods. Only a few of those in attendance, though, knew the smoothies contained yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, and … spinach.

“Smoothie days happen once a month on our half days,” says Brockman. “We offer taste tests so the kids get to try it before downing a whole cup.”

The healthy breakfast event was the school’s way of ramping up for National Nutrition Month in March.  A cooler full of fresh, low-fat, white milk and fat-free chocolate and strawberry milk was on hand, as well as yogurt, bagels and cream cheese, juice, cereal, and English muffins with egg and sausage.

Bentley’s involvement with FUTP 60 started after the school received a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant to support its Healthy Eating Play and Physical Activity Play. The grant enabled the school to buy a Vitamix blender as well as to purchase postcards with the smoothie recipe printed out to send home with kids so they could try making the smoothies for themselves.

“We are very appreciative of having received this grant,” says Brockman, who has been with the school for three years.

This student-powered smoothie bike is helping spark interest in nutrition. Making food fun is key according to United Dairy Industry of Michigan experts. Photo by Alvin Brown

The fitness aspect of the program has also been instrumental to the structure of her students’ days. When she first started, the children didn’t take recess outside. With the grant, the school was able to purchase outdoor equipment such as balls, Frisbees, and jump ropes, and to have the students take recess before lunch.

“They really loved it,” she says.

As the kids flooded into the cafeteria, a few willingly got on the bike to try it out and enjoyed the pedaling and the pulsating.

Amiee Vondrasek, school wellness specialist for Milk Means More, which represents the United Dairy Industry in Michigan, loves making the connection with the student teams and the schools.

“It’s so great helping them motivate their peers to make healthy food choices, like low-fat yogurt and milk, as well as to be active for 60 minutes a day,” she says of her work in the schools, which covers the eastern part of Michigan.

FUTP 60 gives each school the tools and ideas they need to push healthy initiatives forward. It encourages program advisors and student team members to register on the FUTP 60 website and check off the six steps of the program. If schools complete all six steps, they become a touchdown school.

“I thought Principal Brockman did a wonderful job, greeting all of the students as they came off the bus and inviting them to come down to the cafeteria,” Vondrasek says. “Overall, it was a super event.”

Brockman agrees. “The kids have really embraced it. It’s days like this that make it so easy to get up and go to work in the morning.”



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