LION Day Helps Beet Diabetes

In Dover, New York, the elementary school children have taste-tested everything from healthy mangoes to golden beets during their lunch time. At home their parents are being educated about combatting diabetes.

It all started when The Town of Dover Lions Katie Pallmer-House and Patti Zangle were inspired by the Lion mantra “Think Global, Act Local” at the 40th annual Lions Day with the United Nations in March 2018. Pallmer-House and Zangle wanted to learn about the global cause of diabetes, and even more about how to act local and fight it at home.

They started by meeting medical professionals at their local hospital to learn about the health needs in their community. Then, enlightened to the growing problem of prediabetes in children, they spoke with the principal and food service manager at Wingdale Elementary, and they met with parents on a curriculum night.

With the help of an education enrichment grant, the Lions club launched a monthly new fruit and vegetable tasting program in the school. It’s called “Let’s Improve Our Nutrition (LION): A Lunch ’n Learn Series about Healthy Eating.”

The grant funds from the school district help them purchase fruits and vegetables, and each month on LION day the students view a short video about healthy eating. Lions, school employees, and dietetic staff from the hospital then distribute a new food for the students to taste at lunch.

Their first foods—mangoes, clementines, fruit smoothies, and cucumbers—were well received but are also most familiar to the students. The later foods, including golden beets, were new and unfamiliar. But because students already had a good rapport with the Lions, many were willing to give them a try.

Each week the students receive a “new food” information worksheet to take home for their parents, along with literature about diabetes awareness and education.

Pallmer-House says The Town of Dover Lions will continue the program next fall and expand it to include children in the local Head Start program. Lions also plan to purchase a vertical garden to grow next year’s lettuces, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers at the school so the children can see how their food grows.