Obesity may be a global challenge, but one local elementary school principal is doing what she can to help at the local level. Cynthia Best-Going, principal of Oxon Hill Elementary School, hosts an annual Health Fair Extravaganza designed to motivate people to commit to a healthier lifestyle with the most recent event taking place last […]
Obesity may be a global challenge, but one local elementary school principal is doing what she can to help at the local level.
Cynthia Best-Going, principal of Oxon Hill Elementary School, hosts an annual Health Fair Extravaganza designed to motivate people to commit to a healthier lifestyle with the most recent event taking place last Tuesday.
According to The Partnership for a Healthier America led by First Lady Michelle Obama via the Let’s Move! Campaign, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled in the past thirty years. Statistics show that one in three children in this country is obese or overweight.
Hoping to solve this problem, Best-Goring began the Health Fair Extravaganza five years ago. Thirty people attended the inaugural event and about three vendors including in-demand Chef Gregory Davis, who fixes plant-based food. This year, about 50 vendors set up shop in Best-Goring’s school with about 257 parents and children in attendance.
Best-Goring, who likes to gather data, worked in collaboration with her school nurse Carol Smith to identify health-related needs in the community. Together, Best-Goring and Smith worked to organize a fair that would provide practical solutions to its attendees.
On April 29, those solutions included chickpea burgers and chocolate vegan cupcakes made from black beans sans the flour. The 300 vegetarian burgers and cupcakes were devoured by students and their parents within 45 minutes.
“People kept talking about, ‘I want the recipes.’ My community is now thirsting for a healthier lifestyle,” Best-Goring said. “They look forward to hearing the health tips given by Chef Davis. Our lifestyle has changed. For refreshments that we have for our monthly parent nights, we have fruit. The first year we did it, the parents said, ‘I don’t know about this, Ms. Best-Goring.’ But now that’s all they want—fruit. If I did something else different, they wouldn’t eat it.”
“It’s already benefiting the learning community,” said Best-Goring. “It has ignited a fire in our parents, business partners, teachers and students to want to be healthier. It has caused them to want to eat healthier so that they feel better. If they are eating healthy and feel better, it increases student achievement.”
Planning for the annual health fair begins in August. Best-Goring said she is happy with this year’s turnout.
“It’s fulfilling to see people happy and they’re happy not because it was something where they sat down and listened and enjoyed music,” said Best-Goring. “They were happy because they were constantly moving, learning and making decisions about how they’re going to be healthy.”
LaShaune Gillis, whose daughter attends Oxon Hill Elementary School, said she attends the health fair every year. While she thought the cupcakes were “decent” and stated that she “could not do” the chickpea burgers, Gillis said she thinks the health fair is good for the community.
“(The event) is beneficial because it gives you a different spin on what can be healthy and what’s not,” she said. “So at least now you know that there are chickpea sliders that were not that tasty but at least you’re willing to taste it. Trying new things is always good.”
Chef Davis, who is featured at the opening of the event, returns to the health fair every year in order to support Best-Goring in her efforts to change the community’s eating habits.
“The first item I chose was a chocolate black bean cupcake,” Davis said of his dessert. “I chose it for what’s called ‘stealth nutrition’. How do we get our children as well as or adults to eat nutritious food without looking like it? The best way to do this is to hide it. The black bean cupcakes are gluten-free and they’re made with black beans. It does not have flour which has the gluten which is bad for most people’s health. The black bean is a complex carbohydrate, that way it makes your body feel full and it breaks down a lot slower and gives you the full nutrition your body needs.”
Davis said he believes a healthier lifestyle is attainable to all who seek it.
“The three principles of healthy eating are cost, convenience and flavor,” said Davis. “Everything we do here you can find in local stores in this neighborhood and do easily and are cost-effective. That’s what we’ve been doing every year since we’ve been here because we want to make sure our foods are something the community can do if they want to.”
Davis, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, flew into the D.C. area just to share his healthier living recipes with the members of the Oxon Hill community who attended the fair.
“I want to see this thing grow as much as possible,” he said. “I think it’s important to get the word out to communities here that she’s committed to healthier eating and she’s trying to change the culture.”