PERU — More than 100 kindergarten through fifth-grade students gathered in the auditorium of Dirigo Elementary School on Tuesday to watch Emmy award-winning group FoodPlay teach lessons about healthful eating habits and preventing childhood obesity, all while juggling, singing and dancing.

The event was sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets.

“We all know that good eating makes for great learners,” said store manager Rick Landry.

The performance began with the character of Coach, played by actor Giordon Diaz, running down the center of the auditorium, offering high-fives to students.

After introducing himself as the “coach of the National Junior Juggling Team,” Diaz proceeded to teach students about recognizing healthful foods.

“How many of you eat?” Diaz asked. More than 100 hands shot into the air, and Diaz yelled, “Great! Did you know that there are over 350,000 types of foods in the world? Over half of them weren’t around when our parents were kids. Nowadays, a lot of food is made in a factory somewhere instead of being found in the wild.”

Diaz said some foods are “go foods,” and held up an apple.

“Other foods are ‘whoa foods,’” Diaz said, putting the apple down and holding up an apple pie.

“The ‘whoa foods’ take you down,” Diaz said. “They might be fun to eat, but they’re filled with sugar, fat and additives that make us sick and tired. For instance, with these processed, packaged apple pies, companies take an apple and scrape all the skin off before chopping it up and cramming it with all kinds of salt, sugar and fat.”

Diaz looked exasperated as he asked the students, “Why would they take the skin off the apple? That’s the best part of the apple!”

“As for the salt, did you know there is more salt in an apple pie than an order of french fries?” Diaz asked. The students yelled, “Ew!” and Diaz said, “These ‘whoa foods’ are filled with sugar, salt and fat, the three things that we’re eating too much of in this country.”

Later in the performance, Diaz introduced the character Janey Junkfood, played by actress Chrissy Basham.

Basham came on stage dressed in a small red jersey, purple sweatpants and multi-colored shoes, and proceeded to question Diaz on why certain foods were bad, including soda.

“Come on, Coach, is soda really that bad for you?” Basham asked Diaz. “Everybody drinks it! I see commercials of movie stars and rock stars drinking soda.”

Diaz replied, “Food companies pay those actors, athletes and musicians millions of dollars to drink soda. If you want to see how bad soda is, let’s see how much sugar they put in one can of soda.”

Diaz took a plastic cup and a container of sugar and poured five teaspoons into a cup.

“Do you think that’s how much sugar is in there?” Diaz asked.

While Basham replied, “Yes,” a chorus of “Nos!” rang through the auditorium.

Diaz poured five more teaspoons of sugar into the cup, for a total of 10.

“That’s right, there’s 10 teaspoons of sugar in one can of soda,” Diaz said.

As the students expressed disgust at Diaz’s revelation by yelling, “Gross!” Diaz added, “Between the sugar and the phosphoric acid in the soda, it’s rotting people’s teeth and causing cavities.”

To show students what soda does to teeth, Diaz took a large white replica of a tooth and dunked it into a container labeled “Cola.”

He held it there for 10 seconds before pulling it out and showing the students that the tooth had changed from white to brown.

“Think of this experiment next time you drink soda, and remember, be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you,” Diaz said.

FoodPlay Productions was founded in 1982 by Barbara Storper. It has won several awards, including a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children and Youth Special and the Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award by the American Dietetic Association.

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