Thanks to Amy Martinez Starke and The Oregonian Tom Ohling's message of good nutrition gets out to the whole community.

Nutrition Magician® captivates Milwaukie grade school pupils

By Amy Martinez Starke, of The Oregonian staff

When a child starts the day without break fast, you have a body in the classroom whose mind is somewhere else. Every teacher knows that. Study after study shows that children need to start their brains with breakfast. One Tufts University study linked school breakfast programs to a 60 percent reduction in trips to the principal's office.

Kids clearly recognize the link between a good breakfast, feeling better and doing better in school, and they can even make the connection between breakfast and behavior.

As 8-year-old Chris Hartman noted during a nutrition program presented to Milwaukie Elementary School pupils last Thursday, “After I eat breakfast, I don't fight with my sister.”

But there's a gap between what kids know about breakfast and what they do when it comes to eating breakfast. Nearly 90 percent of schoolchildren polled in a recent survey think breakfast helps them do better in school, yet nearly four in 10 do not eat breakfast at least once a week, and 7 percent miss breakfast five to seven times a week.

The “Mission Nutrition” program, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hopes to change that. As part of that effort Nutrition Magician®"Nutrition Magician" Tom Ohling is visiting one school in every Oregon school district statewide.

More than 400 Milwaukie Elementary pupils, from wiggly kindergartners to sixth-graders, heard Ohling's program teaching “the magic of healthy food choices”—eating fruits and vegetables at least “five a day” and grains with every single meal.

Wearing vegetable-print pants Ohling briskly moved through five versions of his hands-on, 40-minute program. Each segment concluded with students carving a parrot out of an orange, a kinetic learning activity in which each part of the bird corresponds to a part of the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid.

The lesson was old hat to some “We already knew about food pyramids,” volunteered one child.

“We learned about it in Brownies,” added Rachel Park, 8.

But the pupils seemed to find the program engaging anyway.

“How many of you want strong healthy bodies and smart brains?” Hands shot up. “Oodles of noodles are good for us!”

Does anybody like pizza? Pizza crust is a grain.

Ohling doesn’t tell doesn't tell kids what not to eat. "There are no bad foods, only bad diets," he told third-graders. "If I ate M&Ms for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there wouldn't be something wrong with M&Ms, but with my diet. A body without good things in it isn't very good.

“What do I eat with every meal?”

“Grain!” everyone chorused, and giggled.

Ohling has already given 700 presentations to 38,000 kids at more than 100 schools around the state and he is scheduled to give presentations to another 57 schools this year. Eventually, he'll hit all the state's 201 school districts.

In observance of its 1999 sponsorship of National School Breakfast Week, March 1-5. Post Cereal Co. has donated 86,400 servings of cereal to the Portland Public Schools— part of 1 million servings donated across the country. More studies confirm the importance of the kind of program Ohling is presenting.

This past January the American Dietetic Association released its position on dietary guidance for children 2 to 11, showing that childhood eating patterns have a long-term effect on adult health.

But Thursday, what did the kids learn?

“That nutrition is cool,” suggested Jake VanVoorhis, 9.

Said Rachelle Hobson, 9: “I'm going to eat Cheerios instead of Kix and junk food.”


(back to top of page)


    Ask which program will be perfect for your

  • Conference
  • Convention
  • Banquet
  • Fair
  • Festival
  • Special Event
  • Picnic
  • Party
  • Family Night
  • Assembly
  • In-Service
  • Fund Raiser
  • Round Table

Loved by audiences

“Thanks so much for being a speaker at conference. I learned more from your class than all of the rest. ”

— Wilma Hyde, OSFSA Conference

(read more)

Honored for commitment to quality education

American Culinary Federation President's Citation to Tom Ohling for education

from The American Culinary Federation

(read more)

“Your professionalism, high energy, preparedness and content knowledge made it easy for the group to relate their experiences to your information and motivate change.”

– Scott A. Milam Manager, Clark County District NW Natural

(read more)

A part of your team

ACF Good Guy honor to Tom Ohling nutrition educator

The ACF Chef & The Child Foundation Good Guy Award

(read more)

Recognized in the community

Firestone 100 national honor to Tom Ohling for service to others

Firestone 100 National Community Service Recognition

(read more)

Recognized for excellent childhood education

Chefs de Cuisine Society of Oregon honors Tom Ohling for childhood education programs

from Chefs de Cuisine Society of Oregon

(read more)