Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Diego and Katherine Flores take a picture with firefighter Heath Griner during the Breakfast with a Hero program at Animas
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Diego and Katherine Flores take a picture with firefighter Heath Griner during the Breakfast with a Hero program at Animas Elementary on Thursday, March 7, 2013. (Augusta Liddic)
FARMINGTON — Talking to students about nutrition can be a struggle but with the aid of a local "hero," Animas Elementary is hoping to educate its student body about the importance of breakfast.

With the help of a grant from the "Action for Healthy Kids" program, Animas Elementary hosted its Breakfast with a Hero program Thursday morning..

The event was held to help revive student interest in the before-school breakfast program as part of National School Breakfast Week. Flyers were sent out to parents of Animas students to invite them to the breakfast program.

Dietitian Susanne Bryant said she hoped having a local firefighter speak would spark a positive response from the students.

"I think it helps them recognize being a fireman, policeman or a soldier requires them to be in good condition," Bryant said. "To perform their job well, they need to be sure they are eating healthy."

Animas was one of 11 schools nationwide to receive a $750 grant to fund special programming to increase participation in school breakfast programs.

Bryant said there is a large amount of research about eating a healthy breakfast and the link to a child's performance in school. Animas Elementary was selected for the program because Bryant thought participation levels at the school were low.

Bryant invited Farmington Fire Department Engineer Heath Griner to speak the students about his service to the community and what breakfast means to their health.

Griner said he wanted to explain the importance of eating breakfast to his own routine and the reaction the body has when breakfast is skipped.

One concept Griner felt was important was stressing how the body goes into a starvation mode if a meal like breakfast is skipped and the side effects it has on the human body. To help students understand how the first meal will help them perform better in academics.

"It helps them to concentrate better if they had something to eat," Griner said.

Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Lukian Greyhorse, 3, eats breakfast during the Breakfast with a Hero program at Animas Elementary on Thursday, March 7,
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Lukian Greyhorse, 3, eats breakfast during the Breakfast with a Hero program at Animas Elementary on Thursday, March 7, 2013. (Augusta Liddic)
"They perform better mentally and physically and it helps reduce childhood obesity."

Griner has some experience with proper nutrition and exercise, having earned an exercise science degree and certification as a personal trainer.

Principal Rhonda Attaway said she thought the program was a terrific idea and great for her students.

"Anytime you can provide a positive role for kids, it's a plus," Attaway said. "We always encourage the kids to eat healthy foods, so it all ties in together."

Based on the success of the event, Bryant hopes to bring this to other district schools to share the importance can have on a student's body.

"It would give them an incentive and another reason to come to breakfast," Bryant said. "To inspire them so that once they come in, they'll keep on."

Joshua Kellogg may be reached at jkellogg@daily-times.com; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt