Head Start uses LANA to get preschoolers excited about healthy eating
Preschoolers in southeastern Minnesota are connecting to Lana the Iguana's bug-eyed lessons. The green hand puppet vows to help keep them healthier if they simply follow her advice and eat more fruits and veggies.
Lana and the Learning About Nutrition through Activities (LANA) program at Head Start for Semcac, a nonprofit that covers Dodge, Fillmore, Houston, Mower, Steele and Winona counties, are helping kids establish healthy eating habits now to reduce risks of chronic diseases later in life.
In July 2015, Semcac Head Start adopted LANA as the official nutrition curriculum and instituted this into formal policy and practice for all of its sites. The Head Start program worked with Fillmore County's Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) to train teachers to use LANA at their locations.
How LANA works
LANA provides role models - including Lana the Iguana - who inspire kids to eat more nutritiously. It also connects the classroom experience with their home life by bringing the program into homes.
“The kids get really excited when they see Lana,” said Lori Woxland, Health Coordinator for Semcac. “When the kids see her, they know they’re going to have fun and learn about nutrition. She helps us get the message across.”
The 24-week evidence-based program includes weekly tastings, cooking programs and food-focused activities that allow the kids to become familiar with fruits and vegetables. Lana leads the food exploration with games, stories and related activities in math, reading and art.
Keeping children healthy
Analysis of the Head Start’s student population revealed that some children were either overweight or obese. That convinced Beth Stanford, Director of Head Start at Semcac, that something had to be done.
“Most of our clients are at-risk or families in crisis,” Stanford said. “LANA and SHIP helped us give families information about foods that can keep their children healthy.”
Semcac contacted Brenda Pohlman, coordinator for Fillmore County SHIP. She recommended LANA and offered training. It is now offered it in all six of Semcac’s counties.
That approach, specifically technical assistance available through SHIP, was most encouraging for Stanford.
“This curricula reaches almost 300 children, their parents and Head Start staff,” Pohlman said. “Without SHIP’s support, Head Start would not have moved forward with LANA.”