By SARAH KLEPNER
Wearing pedometers, they visited the stores Rincon and Juanito’s on Shrewsbury Avenue to learn about wholesome food choices, and then headed over to the JBJ Soul Kitchen on Monmouth Street, where chef Zeet Peabody happily showed them around the garden.
The Tuesday morning outing was part of Shaping Red Bank, a public health initiative started two and half years ago that addresses dietary causes of childhood obesity and diabetes through a coalition of local organizations, said Sandra Van Sant, Monmouth Regional Health Commission health officer.
“The bodegas have been very gracious and cooperative with the Healthy Pick program,” said Isabelle Lopez-Kupilik, bilingual outreach worker for the initiative funded both through public and private monies. Under the program, low-salt and low-fat items are stocked and labeled, and fresh fruit is at the front of the counter by the register instead of candy.
Along with lettuce, onions, peas, and kitchen herbs, Peabody showed the kids medicinal plants growing in the raised-bed gardens in front of Soul Kitchen.
“This is good for a stomachache,” he said, passing around anise hyssop leaves. “Tastes like licorice, right?”
“We learned to eat healthy,” said Peter, one of the students. “Because it makes you feel better.”
Groups involved in Shaping Red Bank include Pilgrim Baptist Church, the YMCA, the Parker Family Clinic and Meridian. Many of the same people are also now involved with the Mayor’s Wellness Committee, Van Sant noted.