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A Catholic School in Harlem Turns MyPlate into a School Musical

In the heart of New York City, Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School is as a beacon of hope for the communities of East Harlem. The Catholic school serves 280 students in Pre-K through 8th grade, and one hundred percent of students qualify for Free Lunch in the National School Lunch Program. According to the New York City Department of Health, more than 4 in 10 elementary school children in East and Central Harlem are overweight or obese. East Harlem currently has the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in New York City, and over 25% of the area’s children suffer from the condition. Principal Suzanne Kaszynski is taking big strides to address those trends with MyPlate, USDA’s new food icon, in a school-wide effort to prevent childhood obesity and long-term risks for chronic disease.  

Following the release of the MyPlate icon, Helen Butleroff-Leahy, a former Rockette and registered dietitian, launched “MYPLATE! The New Food Guide Musical Program” to teach kids about healthy eating at Mt. Carmel-Holy. Students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade have been learning about active, nutritious lifestyles in the classroom while rehearsing for Butleroff-Leahy’s original, MyPlate-inspired school musical., Students learn about making healthy choices through dance routines and participate in exercise through musical theater. Each dance number corresponds to a different color on MyPlate and is narrated with interesting facts about the food groups. Joined by professional Broadway actors, the students perform for the entire Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School family, including parents and faculty members, as a school-wide educational initiative to inform all students on how to nourish their minds and bodies.

The musical is one of many ways that Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary is engaging parents, families, and the Harlem community in healthy lifestyles. The school serves healthy snacks daily, such as fresh fruit and carrot sticks. Students learn the importance of physical activity as they trained weekly in East Harlem’s Jefferson Park to prepare for The Ronald McDonald Fun Run in Central Park. In a visit to Green Meadows Farm in Queens, Pre-K and Kindergarten students learned about growing food, raising animals, and even milked the dairy cows. As a supporter of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Faith and Communities, the school is a great example of how faith-based and neighborhood organizations can lead the way to raise a healthier generation of kids.

Questions about this story? Contact Eleanor Killian at

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