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Elmo to cook up good nutrition

by Michelle Locke
| November 28, 2010 8:00 PM

"C" is for cookie. And "N" is for nutrition.

The folks at "Sesame Street" are hoping to spell out a message of eating well with a new initiative aimed at fighting hunger.

The program, "Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget," is being put together by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind "Sesame Street." It's aimed at the 15 percent of households in the U.S. - accounting for approximately 9 million children - who don't get food that meets basic nutritional needs due to financial instability.

"We found there were really very few resources engaging young children and helping them engage not only in healthy habits but also in knowing that as a family they're not alone in this," said Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of content design for the education, research and outreach department of Sesame Workshop.

The program provides families with an educational outreach kit which includes a video featuring four new Muppets, the "Super foods" - banana, cheese, whole-grain roll and broccoli. The video also features Elmo and friends, plus real families, as they try new foods, learn about healthy snacks and discover the importance of sharing a meal together.

And, of course, the broccoli knows how to boogie.

"All our 'super foods' actually sing and dance and encourage the kids and Elmo to try new foods and try new snacks, to eat healthier," said Betancourt. The food Muppets aren't joining the official "Sesame Street" cast, but they will be featured on a December show.

The 400,000 kits, available in English or Spanish, will be distributed through sponsors UnitedHealthcare and The Merck Foundation, as well as other organizations.

"Sesame Street" has been spreading the message of good nutrition for some time. Big blue Cookie Monster learned a while back that cookies are a "sometime" food. The new initiative promotes the idea of "anytime" foods, healthy snacks like low-fat yogurt or cheese and whole-grains.

There also is a budgeting segment with Art Smith, former chef to Oprah Winfrey. For Smith, who grew up watching "Sesame Street," cooking for Elmo is "truly a dream."

"It's amazing to be a part of something that I care so much about," he said.

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