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Fontbonne Camp Aims to Teach Kids About Healthy Eating, World Cultures

The program known as campF.R.E.S.H. is in its second year and draws students from schools in Clayton, Richmond Heights and beyond.

A summer program in its second year at in aims to give kids' global perspective about eating right.

"Culture and food are very heavily intertwined," said Mary Beth Ohlms, who directs the seven-week campF.R.E.S.H. for students in grades 4 through 7. It began last week and runs through Aug. 3.

The idea for the camp came from Cheryl Houston, professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Fontbonne. Houston hired Ohlms, who used her experience with camps and Girl Scouts to identify funding sources that would make the program affordable for families.

An anonymous donor loved the concept and has provided scholarships for children who qualify for free or reduced lunches, Ohlms said. The support allows those children to attend for $75 per week, compared to the regular $150-per-week rate.

Students attend from districts such as Clayton, , University City, Webster Groves and Kirkwood. Twenty-one campers came last year, and 27 have attended so far this year, Ohlms said. Space is still available, and those interested in learning more can call 314-889-1415, email kross@fontbonne.edu or go to fontbonne.edu/campfresh.

Over the course of the seven-week camp, students spend time learning about the seven continents. They participate in games, theater, music, science projects and cooking. The students will tend F.R.E.S.H. Greens Garden, whose produce will be used at camp this summer and by campus food services in the fall.

Students also hauled water as part of The Water Project, a curriculum that explains how water is used and conserved around the world. They'll run a lemonade stand at the end of the summer to raise money for the construction of a well in an African community, Ohlms said. 

They also blog about their experiences and take field trips. Last year, favorite spots included the ice rink at for the Antarctica section. This year, as part of the theme "Celebrations Around the World," students will learn about harvest festivities in Africa, tour The Hill while learning about Europe and study Asian art during a visit to Mandarin Garden restaurant.

The camp wraps up with a family celebration. Students will staff stations that highlight the continents and perform with Jill Jayne, a nutritionist and rock musician.

Ohlms sees many benefits in the camp. It is boosting children's self-esteem, teaching valuable cooking skills and "planting the seed for good, healthy eating behavior the whole rest of their lives," she said.

It's a message she plans to share with a wider audience later this month. In Indianapolis, Ohlms will help deliver a presentation about the lessons camp can teach children during the annual American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences conference.

Editor's note: Parents can get helpful information about healthy eating for children at kidseatright.org, Ohlms said.

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