Burnett pushes healthy habits
Special to Packerland Titletown USA
Greg Seubert Photos
Eat healthy, stay active and make a difference.
That’s the message Green Bay Packers defensive back Morgan Burnett had during a visit to Weyauwega Elementary School.
Burnett spent more than an hour with Weyauwega and Fremont elementary and middle school students Nov. 15 as part of Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program that encourages students to eat healthy, be active and implement positive, healthy changes at school.
“Throughout Wisconsin, we have hundreds of schools that are leading this program,” said Beth Schaefer, a regional program manager with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, which funds the program in cooperation with the NFL.
“Today, we’re really excited to reward Weyauwega-Fremont with this Packer player visit,” she said. “Only two schools in the whole state get to have a player come visit them. Fuel Up to Play 60 is a national program funded by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing board and dairy farms of the United States. This program was developed to help communities empower kids to lead healthier, more active lives, not just by eating dairy, but by eating all five food groups and getting 60 minutes of exercise every single day.”
The school kept Burnett’s identity a secret from students and teachers until he arrived. Besides talking to students, he also gave away a pair of autographed footballs.
“There are so many gadgets and technology,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with playing video games, but sometimes, you have to put them down and go outside to help you in the long run when you become an adult.”
Kristen Hanten advises the program at Weyauwega Elementary School.
“We were chosen to host a player visit because of the hard work and dedication of our Fuel Up to Play 60 team members over the past few years,” Hanten said. “We have been able to accomplish great things here at school. Our students have planned events such as the Youth Outreach Camp, a cheese tasting and a smoothie tasting and color run. Our students also run the spring mileage club at the elementary school to keep kids active and moving during recess.”
The program has expanded to Weyauwega-Fremont Middle School this year under adviser Mary Pope. Shari Foster, Traci Zietlow and Holly Olsen are advisers at Fremont Elementary School.
“That message of eating healthy and getting active, we know it’s working,” Schaefer said. “We give out grants to schools to do healthy eating initiatives and physical activity. At the end of the year, we have surveys that go out to all the schools that participate in the program. Ninety percent of the schools reported that kids are eating and drinking more nutrient-rich dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese. Eighty percent of schools saw more kids eating fruits and vegetables at school breakfast and lunch.
“We’ve really seen this turn into a student-led and student-driven initiative,” she said. “Students are not only improving their own health, they’re learning how to lead others into making better choices. We’ve seen it expand to where it’s not only happening in the classroom or schools. Fuel Up to Play 60 has really spread that message, not just within the school walls, but within the entire community. I think Weyauwega-Fremont is just a shining example of how that message has started very small in the second- and third-grade classroom and now has student leadership teams. It’s an absolute credit to the food service and the phy ed department, as well as those teachers that believe in the wellness and health of the students. We know that healthy students are better students.”
Burnett is the Packers’ Fuel Up to Play 60 representative.
“My agent brought the opportunity to me and it was a no-brainer,” he said. “I’m big on empowering the youth. I just like the whole concept of eating a balanced meal, making sure you’re getting the proper amount of meals each day, getting out at least 60 minutes outside and play. I think that’s big for our kids. Anyway I can get involved, I’m willing to help.”
“He’s been our official face of Fuel Up to Play 60 for Wisconsin for the past two years,” Schaefer said. “We work very closely with the Green Bay Packers and part of that relationship is working to find the right player who really embodies the values of Fuel Up to Play 60, which eating healthy and getting active, whether you’re a professional athlete or a kindergartener. In Wisconsin, one out of nine jobs is related to agriculture. Everyone eats, so everyone has some sort of connection to agriculture in Wisconsin. Our dairy industry is that face of agriculture.”
Burnett said he didn’t have anyone pointing him in the right direction as a high school athlete in Georgia.
“We really didn’t and that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to help out as much as I can,” he said. “What the NFL does with using its athletes is really big because I didn’t have that as a kid. Having the opportunity to help a young kid out is always a blessing.”