A pilot program to promote both wellness and soy products is being tested in central Iowa schools for a possible statewide rollout. Jantina Wennerstrom, spokeswoman for the Ankeny-based non-profit Soy for Life Foundation, says she’s meeting with classes of middle-school girls for an hour at a time over four weeks.

“We talk about healthy choices, eating breakfast, fruits and vegetables,” Wennerstrom says. “The girls get to prepare their own snacks and usually that’s where I start showing them different soy foods they can use, like a salsa or a smoothie. They get to touch and taste and take a look at tofu and different soy foods.”

It’s important to reach kids during their formative years, she says, so they’ll learn healthy habits that will have a positive impact throughout their lives. For the next several months, Wennerstrom is traveling to Des Moines-area middle schools to present what’s called the Soy Sense Curriculum.

For props, she takes along various types of soft and firm tofus. “I actually lay them out on the table so we can talk about how they look — not yukky but bland and they don’t have a lot of taste,” Wennerstrom says. “We get to touch it and feel the different consistencies. Then we take ‘new’ tofu and we make smoothies and talk about how you really can’t taste it in the smoothie.”

The girls are great about trying new things, she says, and one session focuses on things like nutrition content of foods, portion control and keeping a food journal. Wennerstrom says: “We discuss how in our minds we sometimes think we eat fruits and vegetables every day, but are we really doing it? We talk about different foods we’ve tried and some of the good things we do in our lives. Also, the idea that energy in equals energy out, so what kinds of things we can do for exercise.”

The first three sessions focus on Healthy Eating-The Benefits of Soy; Healthy Lifestyles-Be Strong, not Skinny; and Healthy Eating–Disease Prevention. The fourth week involves a field trip to a grocery store, with a scavenger hunt to find various soy-based products.

 To learn more, visit: “www.soyforlifefoundation.com“.