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Making Girls Fit

FitNut has made Adrienne more interested in eating healthfully. "When she goes to the store with me, we read the labels," Rhonda Mavritte said. "We put it back if it isn't nutritional."

Adrienne said she has learned a lot about health. But her favorite part of the program? The dance moves, which she shows off to her grandmom when she visits.


Alexa Geter, 13, practices dance moves at the Girls Fitness and Nutrition program in Southeast.

_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: Reporter January Payne and Jessica Sultzer, D.C. Site Director for Project Health, discussed adolescent fitness.
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Adrienne's eating habits have changed, too. "I don't eat that much junk food anymore," she said. Now the Jefferson Junior High School student said she mostly snacks on apples, pears, oranges and grapes instead of potato chips.

FitNut was first offered in Boston in 1997 to address the "poverty-poor health connection," said Rebecca Onie, the founder of Project Health and one of the organization's board members. The program continues in Boston and also operates in New York and Providence, R.I.

The local FitNut program serves girls in Wards 6, 7 and 8 -- offering them a "safe, fun exercise opportunity," said Sultzer. "Without this program, most of these girls wouldn't have this opportunity," she said, adding that most families of girls in the program don't have memberships to a YMCA or gym where they can exercise. But the girls can get a workout at home by practicing the dance routines, Sultzer said.

FitNut is offered free of charge. Sponsors of the District's program include the Novartis Foundation, Amerigroup Foundation, the Child Health Center Board and individual donations.

Project Health grew out of Onie's realization that many things affect the health of children, including "where they were living, [the] financial security of their parents, [and the] health and well-being of their parents," Onie said.

FitNut's curriculum, is dedicated to teaching healthy habits for life. Many of the GWU volunteers major in public health or plan to go to medical school. Joglekar, for example, plans to become a pediatrician. Her high school dance background made her an ideal volunteer.

The FitNut group meets on Tuesdays and Saturdays for two hours; up to 15 girls can participate. The first hour generally includes an educational session taught by GWU students and a healthful snack. At last Tuesday's meeting, the girls discussed body image and healthful habits, and Joglekar asked them "what it means to be healthy."

"Eat healthy foods," suggested one girl.


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