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By Maureen Wendling, Executive Director
I recently visited had the pleasure of sitting in on Wind Gap Middle School’s 4th and 5th grade In-Class Mindfulness sessions taught by Shanthi Project teacher, Miss Amanda. The smiles on the students’ faces when we walked in were bittersweet, as it was the eighth and final week of our program there. It was clear, though, that they had built a great relationship with Miss Amanda and looked forward to their mindful time each week.
The lesson was Mindful Eating. Their smiles did fade just a bit when they were handed a raisin as the learning-tool, rather than a cookie. However, when the exercise began, they turned from middle school students into extremely focused raisin-explorers! Using all five senses and collaborative communication, we discussed one single raisin with great, new detail.
Where did it come from? How did it get here? What was its original texture and shape? The new-found appreciation for that raisin’s journey and development from a grape to a classroom treat was apparent when Miss Amanda asked, “When was the last time you paid this much attention to your food.” The class answered with a resounding, “NEVER!”
Mindful eating is the practice of bringing your full attention to what you are eating and how you are eating. You engage all your senses and become fully present when eating mindfully. Mindful eating has replaced calorie counting as a successful way for children and adults to practice healthy eating habits and stay body-positive. For children, it teaches them to appreciate food, be conscious of where it came from and what is in it. As well as to see eating as fuel for when they feel hungry, and not as a way to relieve stress.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day eating. And while we are eating, more than half the time, we’re doing something else like working, driving, reading, watching television, or fiddling with an electronic device. The act of eating becomes passive, and we’re not fully aware of it. This mindless eating may contribute to chronic health issues, such as childhood obesity, which according to the CDC, is now at 18.5% and affects about 13.7 million children and adolescents in the United States.
Thanks to our donors, the Pen Argyl Area School District, Wind Gap Middle School administration, Miss Amanda, and supporters like YOU, these bright students took one tiny raisin and turned it into an opportunity to:
- thank a farmer,
- discuss the science of grapes,
- express their tastes and opinions, and
- share ideas about healthy foods.
It was a fabulous day and I can’t wait to go back and visit again!