‘Jump with Jill’ promotes healthy eating for kids

Jill (Catherine Baird), left, leads students in a dance prior to the “Jump with Jill” performance Friday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, accompanied by Wirt Primary School first-graders Olivia Brannon and Archer Settle. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — “Jump with Jill” started out as a street show in Central Park, but in the last 12 years, it’s been performed for more than a million children in six countries.

“We’re truly an international, rock-and-roll nutrition show,” said production manager Renee Storm, shortly before a performance Friday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

It’s the third year the show has been presented to Mid-Ohio Valley students. More than 600 kids from 14 schools across Wood, Wirt and Pleasants counties were expected to view one of two performances extolling the virtues of healthy eating through energetic song and dance.

“We use catchy songs to inspire them to make the healthy choices,” Storm said. “We try to make vegetables look cool.”

Storm is part of a rotating cast taking on the role of Jill from show creator Jill Jayne. At Friday’s first show, the job fell to Catherine Baird, alongside Austin Maguire as DJ Buff Beats. Even before the performance officially started, Baird was pulling kids out of the audience to dance to popular songs.

Students from elementary schools in Wood and Wirt counties jump will Jill (portrayed by Catherine Baird), during the nutrition-themed rock show “Jump with Jill” Friday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Once it was showtime, the music shifted to original songs by Jayne, celebrating healthy eating topics like the importance of breakfast: “It activates our minds and bodies for a rock-star day.”

“Kids love it, and it’s a very good learning experience,” said Greg Boso, WVU-P’s co-director for the SNAP-Ed grant that funds the program. “And it’s an emphasis on nutrition, which we surely need.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education grant funds projects around the country for people of all ages, with the goal of improving the likelihood that those eligible for SNAP assistance will make healthy food and lifestyle choices in an effort to prevent obesity. The funds are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the West Virginia University Extension Service.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

Catherine Baird, as Jill, leads local elementary students in the proper royal greeting for an egg, which she described as a “protein princess,” during the “Jump with Jill” show Friday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Jill (Catherine Baird), right, and DJ Buff Beats (Austin Maguire) perform during the “Jump with Jill” program, a nutrition-themed rock show aimed at young students, Friday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

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