PAULSTOWN native and Irish boxing captain Darren O’ Neill met Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn last week to discuss the new ‘Moo Crew’ initiative, for which the Olympic boxer is ambassador.
Darren, who is also a primary school teacher, 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. A world class athlete, he played hurling at intercounty level, with numerous medals including an All-Ireland U-21 for Kilkenny.
Now, he has turned his attention to the health and well being of youngsters. The National Dairy Council says that 37% of girls and 27% of boys aged from 5 to 12 years of age in Ireland have inadequate calcium intakes in their diet.
Developed by teachers for teachers and primary school children from third to sixth class, the Moo Crew programme is currently being introduced to primary schools throughout the country. 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’. Darren O’ Neill 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 says.
“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.”
Support for primary school teachers includes four different lesson plans with activities and web resources. The lesson plans, including ‘nutrition’, ‘physical health’, ‘farm to fridge’, and ‘get involved,’ are available on www.moocrew.ie.
“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,” says Zoë Kavanagh, chief executive of the NDC.