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Gilmanton Scouts first to earn new patch promoting healthy foods, activity

From left, Solomon Durgan, Hunter Clark, Keith Cameron, and Patrick Hamel, of the Cub Scout Wolf pack, survey a plate of kumatos and tomatoes before having to taste each one. Cub Scout 242 was the first pack in New Hampshire to receive the Healthy Unit Patch, earned for healthy snacks and completing physical activities. They met at the Center Congregational Church in Gilmanton on Wednesday afternoon, April 3, 2014.

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

From left, Solomon Durgan, Hunter Clark, Keith Cameron, and Patrick Hamel, of the Cub Scout Wolf pack, survey a plate of kumatos and tomatoes before having to taste each one. Cub Scout 242 was the first pack in New Hampshire to receive the Healthy Unit Patch, earned for healthy snacks and completing physical activities. They met at the Center Congregational Church in Gilmanton on Wednesday afternoon, April 3, 2014. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Derek Kelly wrinkled his nose and closed his eyes as he picked up the slice of a Kumato.

He opened his mouth, bit down, and the juicy insides of the brownish-green vegetable burst out and dribbled down his chin.

Then, he smiled. He licked the juice on his lips and popped the rest of the slice in his mouth.

“It looked rotted,” he said. “I thought it would taste disgusting. Then it didn’t.”

Behind him, Cameron Hamel beamed. Getting Derek and the rest of Cub Scout Pack 242 to try new fruits and vegetables has been a challenge at times, but she’s sticking with it. Her dogged efforts and their willingness to at least try a little bit – at least a lick, if not a bite – earned the pack the first Healthy Unit patch awarded in New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts.

The patch is one of the first steps toward a national, codefied health curriculum for out-of-school activities, promoted by Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity 180 at Tufts University. Healthy Kids Out of School is funded in New Hampshire by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.

Hamel agreed to aim for the badge after seeing her son’s eager response to the demonstration of proposed games at a training event for pack leaders.

“It seemed really easy to do the things they suggested, but really it was his enthusiasm that made me

think the other kids in the pack would like it,” she said.

They like it so much she’s continued the activities and the fruit and vegetable tastings now for months after the badge requirements have been fulfilled.

In addition to the healthy snacks, the badge called for the pack to add 15 minutes of physical activity to nine meetings. The goal is to echo the guidance kids receive in school about healthy eating and physical activity, said Karen Fullerton, regional project coordinator for ChildObesity180’s Healthy Kids Out of School.

“Tens of millions of children participate in out-of-school activities, but as yet there really aren’t a standard set of nutrition and activity standards for promoting a healthy life there,” she said.

Healthy Kids Out of School works with groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 4-H, youth soccer and Pop Warner football programs to teach kids the importance of drinking plenty of water, getting enough physical exercise and choosing the most nutritious foods.

“We’re not asking them to be in charge of teaching this, but by role modeling at the meeting what you hope kids do, and if they are getting a consistent message, then it starts to kick in, the importance becomes a little more weighty,” Fullerton said.

It’s important for kids to hear about making healthy choices in more than one venue, and from more than one source, said Kim Persson, Healthy UNH project director at the Institute for Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire.

“While it has been focused on schools until now, I think any time we have an opportunity to educate our children, we should take it,” Persson said.

“Hearing that message from different people, different adults who are playing different roles in your life, matters. When I say something to my son, it may or may not resonate, but when his cool teacher says it’s cool, it lands differently.” she said.

And if all of the other scouts are trying the pineapple, that matters, too, Hamel said.

One Scout resisted the sweet yellow fruit the first time it came up for a taste test, put off by its strange appearance.

“We absolutely relied on positive peer pressure,” she said.

The pack held a raffle, and every Scout who tried the pineapple was entered to win a set of jacks.

“Everybody took a bite that night,” Hamel said.

Even that reluctant taster?

“By the end of the night, I sent his mom home with the entire second one, because he loved it,” she said.

This article has been updated to correctly reflect the funding for the Healthy Kids Out of School Initiative.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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