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Nutrition Musical

Some local students are learning about nutrition while participating in a musical alongside professional performers.
Former Rockette Helen Butleroff Leahy, who is also a registered dietician, came up with the concept of combining nutrition education and a musical show to teach students. She co-wrote “The New Food Guide Pyramid Musical” with Roumel Reaux, a Broadway and television actor.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea and a very important idea,” said Reaux, who also stars in the musical. “Nutrition is lacking in terms of our society and it’s always our kids who suffer the greatest.”
Through the nine-week program, which receives funding from the Ficalora Foundation, Leahy works with 100 students in grades three, four or five at each school. During the 45-minute sessions, she spends half of the time teaching nutrition and healthy living and the other half teaching them the show.
“I feel that if people are standing in front of a classroom and just holding up a sign it doesn’t have the same impact as participating in an ongoing project,” Leahy said. She continued, “My mission was to get people as soon as I can to make a change.”
The children learn about the food guide pyramid as an angel played by Reaux teaches two cousins about nutrition. The cousins are played by 7-year-old Vikki Vasiliki Eugenis and 16-year-old Jennifer DiBella, both of whom are professional performers. Throughout the show, students go up on stage to participate in musical numbers. The children also create some of their own routines for the show.
“They have so much fun learning the songs and dance,” DiBella said. “In stead of just sitting at a desk and learning from a textbook what it is, they’re really participating and they’re learning through the whole musical process.”
Eugenis also said that she has seen how the children are able to learn more by participating in the musical. She said that she thinks they get more out of it by learning with this method.
Recently, fifth grade students at P.S. 70 in Long Island City took part in the program, which culminated in a performance in front of their school and families.
“When I first found out about it, it was very exciting to be able to actually do a show and learn about the food guide pyramid,” said 11-year-old Sharon Angamarca.
Luis Pinella, 10, said that he thought the show was creative and that one of the things he learned was the need to exercise and stay healthy.
“I think the whole point of this is to tell everybody and to tell us always eat healthy and do exercises,” he said.
Sabrina Abdelwahal, also 10, said that she had wanted to learn more about nutrition so that she could get her family to live a healthier lifestyle. She said that she has taken the information she learned and shared it with them.
Maria Kollaros said, “The best part of all of this is I think working with everybody and learning how staying healthy and exercising is good.”
Leahy will conduct the program in four more schools in May, including at the Dutch Kills Public School in Long Island City. She will also return to P.S. 19 in Corona.
For more information on “The New Food Guide Pyramid Musical,” visit https://www.butleroff.com/food_pyramid_musical.html.

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