Adam Segal at Indigo Richmond Hill in Ontario last fall. (photo from adammichaelsegal.com)
Every parent knows how difficult it can be to cajole their children to eat their vegetables. Author Adam Michael Segal has come up with a tool he hopes will make it easier for parents – inspiring children to eat healthy, and combating the obesity epidemic.
The Toronto-based health communications expert and former elementary school teacher has penned Fartzee Shmartzee’s Fabulous Food Fest, a fun and whimsical book for children ages 4 to 7. The main character, Fartzee, is a quirky child with multicolored spiky hair on a quest to persuade his family to eat nutritious food. Through a series of hatched plans, a food festival and a sticker game, he succeeds in showing everyone in town that eating right can be fun.
The book is made more visually appealing with drawings by 20th Century Fox illustrator and animator Daniel Abramovici.
“This is an entertaining and imaginative story that educates children about healthy eating practices and behaviors,” said Dr. Samantha Witt, a pediatrician based in Maple, Ont.
Part of the inspiration for writing it, Segal told the Independent, included the lack of books specifically directed towards young children to teach them, in a fun way, about eating well.
According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates in Canada have nearly tripled in the past 40 years, with close to a third of children considered either overweight or obese. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers are among the many issues that can arise from obesity.
“For generations, kids have been led to think of junk food as cool and fun, which has contributed significantly to the prevalence of childhood obesity,” said Segal. “With Fartzee, I am trying to completely shift the paradigm to obesity prevention, empowering kids to discover that nutritious food is cool, fun and delicious.”
Segal said he flipped through scores of children’s books to get a feel for what his target age group would find compelling. This is one reason why, in his book, “food is all over the place; it’s kind of messy but fun.”
For some parents, the main character’s name might sound too coarse for a child, but Segal said, so far, parents and educators haven’t had any problems.
“I was a little concerned and nervous,” he admitted, when initially sending out the book to a Grade 2 teacher, a librarian and a parent. “Not a single one had an issue with it. They said that there are already books, at least 10 others, with a character that did farts. It’s not anything unusual or out of the norm. Even someone from the ministry of education reviewed the manuscript and didn’t flinch at it, and they were a teacher for 30 years.”
The book has been read to more than 5,000 students at 15 schools across the Toronto area thus far, according to Segal. He’s finding that kids aren’t as resistant to eating right as we might have thought.
“I ask them why we eat healthy food, and they really get it. Even a 6-year-old will say it gives energy, helps you grow, it’s good for your body and brain,” he said. “At a young age, they actually understand a lot more about the benefits of nutrition than I would have thought when I wrote it.”
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer and the managing editor of landmarkreport.com.