Celebrated Kilkenny boxer Darren O’ Neill has been named as an ambassador for the National Dairy Council’s new primary school initiative, ‘Moo Crew’.
The Paulstown man, who captained the Irish boxing team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, was on hand to help launch the initiative to teachers at the national conference of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network in Citywest last month.
The Primary Dairy Moovement is a new programme for third to sixth class primary school children developed by teachers for teachers. The programme is underpinned by nutritional expertise, based on the latest guidelines of the Department of Health’s Food Pyramid and links learning about a healthy, balanced diet with the importance of an active lifestyle. It extends to learning about dairy and farming as part of our lives in Ireland, with one of the lesson plans exploring where milk comes from and its journey ‘from farm to fridge’.
Zoë Kavanagh, chief executive of The National Dairy Council said that 37% of girls and 27% of boys aged from between five and 12 years of age in Ireland have inadequate calcium intakes in their diet.
“Moo Crew is an educational programme intended to bridge that nutritional gap by helping children to learn about the importance of the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group, in a fun way,” said Ms Kavanagh.
Darren O’Neill, himself a qualified primary teacher, as well as world class athlete and boxer, has a keen interest in the future of Ireland’s youth.
“These trends in relation to inadequate calcium levels amongst Irish school children are worrying, especially when children in these age groups are at such an important phase of bone growth and development,” he said.
“I hope we can help to improve attitudes towards eating a balanced diet and to living a healthy lifestyle which includes physical activity. This programme is designed to be engaging and interactive at classroom level, but I hope it will also help to reinforce the importance of this information to teachers and extend some of the messages and positive habits home to parents and families.”
Darren taught 8-13 year olds in a Dublin school for three years while also training as part of the IABA high performance squad for the London 2012 Olympic Games. He played hurling at intercounty level, with numerous medals including an All-Ireland U-21 for Kilkenny. In more recent times his focus has been on boxing, working with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association supported by the Irish Sports Council, Darren is a multi-medal winner in boxing including European Silver Medallist (2010), Gold at the European Union Championships (2009), 11 international gold medals in world class championships and 13 national boxing titles (1997-2011). In addition to his role as boxing team captain in the 2012 London Games, Darren was also flag bearer for Ireland at closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Support for primary school teachers will include four different lesson plans with activities and web resources. The lesson plans will be available on www.moocrew.ie after the Easter holidays and information about the programme will be sent to schools in early April in advance of National Dairy Week (April 29 – May 5).