FAIRFIELD, Conn. — As an athlete, Fairfield Warde High School senior Samantha Strelzer is interested in eating right and staying healthy.
As a 13-year Girl Scout, she has always wanted to earn the organization’s highest achievement, the Gold Award.
Put those two goals together and you’ve got "The Healthy Trail: What’s Actually in the Mix," a five-week nutrition seminar Strelzer created for 10- to 14-year-olds at Fairfield Public Library.
“I play a lot of sports, so I’m really passionate about this,” said Strelzer, who plays tennis and volleyball and ice skates. “I really want to educate my community on what they can do to be healthier.”
The Gold Star isn’t easily earned. Strelzer had to apply with the local Girl Scout council, create a team to help her and spend 80 hours researching and planning her informative one-hour after-school sessions.
Reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and watching documentaries such as “Food Matters” helped inform her decision to create the program, she said. She has already started a Facebook page, The Healthy Trail Mix , and she plans to create a cookbook from the program.
During a recent Monday session, she explained how processed foods are made and what they may contain. For instance, some companies use formaldehyde to disinfect frozen vegetables, she said.
“It’s the same thing that’s used on corpses,” she told her small group of young girls.
“Oh my god!” gasped 11-year-old Nellie.
One of her team members, her friend and fellow Warde senior Gabby Natoli, gave a short explanation on the difference between natural and artificial foods. She explained high fructose corn syrup and transfats and told the girls if they see “artificial flavors” listed on a product, it could represent dozens of chemicals.
“Sometimes if people are having trouble with how they’re eating, they just start taking drugs for it and that’s probably not the best idea,” Strelzer said. “Eating well is a better choice.”
The group spent half of the session whipping up healthy smoothies made from frozen bananas, coconut milk and other nutritious ingredients.
Nicole Scherer, head of teen services at the library, said the program is the first Gold Award-related initiative at the library. She was pleased to help Strelzer achieve her goal.
“She’s been a big library user for as long as I can remember,” she said. “We’re happy to offer this.”
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