Superheroes don’t always fly, but they can still do a lot when it comes to helping others.
In the case of Regie, the broccoli-shaped crusader for nutrition, a special mission is to encourage young children to eat healthier so they can feel healthier. Through an ongoing program of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s Flint office, Regie’s heroics can be witnessed wherever early childhood teachers are tasked with rescuing youth from poor eating habits.
Regie’s Rainbow Adventure, an eight-week curriculum featuring appearances by the hero himself, is available to pre-schools, nurseries and community centers where youth between age 2 and the early months of age 5 attend. Flint coordinators hope to expand the program to educate more students and families throughout Genesee County in 2019.
Christy Rivette, associate program manager of the Foundation’s Flint office, says the initiative has grown popular among the agency’s local children’s outreach efforts.
“The one that I think resonates most for us as an organization is Regie’s Rainbow Adventure, because we developed it ourselves,” Rivette says. “We’ve been able to see a lot more tangible impact for the kids involved with Regie’s Rainbow Adventure.”
The adventure revolves around Regie’s visits to eight islands of different colors that match the colors of healthy fruits and vegetables – which are sources of the green-haired hero’s powers. While mainly promoting nutrition, the curriculum also helps teachers reinforce aspects of oral health, literacy, language development, science, art, social skills and physical health, using interactive books.
An added component of the effort is Regie’s leadership in encouraging children to get involved with physical activity through fun demonstrations like how to use the hula hoop. His presence tends to get youth excited about what they’re learning, observers say.
“That’s the sort of impact the program has,” says Joyce Williams, spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan.
Last year 11 Genesee County preschools or daycare centers participated in Regie’s Rainbow Adventure, which has grown to reach 20,000 youth annually, statewide. Since their children began the program: 93 percent of parents report an increase in their children’s ability to identify more fruits and vegetables; 85 percent of parents report an increase in their children’s fruit consumption; 78 percent of parents report an increase in their children’s vegetable consumption; and 83 percent of parents report an increase in their children’s physical activity.
Regie’s Rainbow Adventure is part of a wider effort in Flint to encourage households to learn about health and disease prevention. The Flint office is one of four National Kidney Foundation of Michigan locations, including Ann Arbor, Detroit and Grand Rapids.
The statewide organization has worked to help Michigan residents address and prevent leading causes of kidney disease including obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Nutrition and fitness are regarded as critical to early childhood education where general health is concerned, since the rate of type 2 diabetes is increased with obesity. The Foundation projects that one in three children born in 2000, during a time when Michigan’s obesity rates began to increase, will develop diabetes.
“RRA (Regie’s Rainbow Adventure) was created based upon requests from community partners,” says Crystal D’Agostino, senior program manager of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. “We had programming that we offered in early childhood settings to parents, but teachers and administrators wanted to expand that to children.”
The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan wants to collaborate with schools, programs and childcare agencies, and is willing to help potential partners secure funding for Regie’s Rainbow Adventures. Parents, who are asked to incorporate aspects of the program at their dinner tables, can support the superhero by using some of the lessons taught in class, and by serving foods sampled by their children during Regie presentations.
“We find that kids are more willing to try new foods, even at home,” says Rivette.
For more information about the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and Regie’s Rainbow Adventures visit https://www.nkfm.org/regies-rainbow-adventure.
Lead photo courtesy of the Kidney Foundation