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Combine getting Pacific Island children interested in science, healthy eating and exercise with an experimental healthy bread recipe and you get an International Science Festival Project, Rebecca Fox discovers.
A group of Pacific Island young people will be on the cutting edge of science next week as they try out an experimental new bread recipe.
The recipe, designed by University of Otago Public Health Research (Wellington) earlier this year, is supposed to reduce the risk of heart disease, while being low-cost.
A basic loaf at $1.50 has lower sodium and high potassium levels, while a higher-cost $3 loaf also has higher levels of fibre and the best polyunsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid ratio.
Lead author Prof Nick Wilson says bread is a staple of the New Zealand diet so it is a high-priority food to research when looking for ways to reduce diet-related disease.
Researchers, who used a computer-based method to find the best mix of healthy ingredients in the bread, indicated further taste testing was needed to see if the "optimised'' breads would be acceptable to the public.
International Science Festival director Chris Greene came up with the idea of combining the bread research with a project to engage children in science through a health eating programme.
Project Activate was born with help from the University of Otago's food science and physical education schools, Otago Polytechnic's culinary arts school, Pacific Trust Otago and Healthier Lives (National Science Challenge).
Twelve children aged 11 and 12 years, mostly from South Dunedin schools, will take part in the week-long programme.
Pacific Trust Otago's Finau Taungapeau says the higher obesity rates among Pacific Island children and low uptake in science and related subjects make them an important group to target.
"It's important to target young people at this age before they start to make up their young minds.''
A sports and science show run two years ago by the festival was incredibly popular so there is a lot of interest in this programme as a result, she says.
Programme co-ordinator Rebecca Wilson says the group will work towards creating a healthy lunch for a sports tournament at the end of the week.
The children will take part in cooking workshops, where they will learn basic skills about nutrients in different foods and reading food labels. A separate cooking workshop will be held with their families.
They will also spend time in the university's food science laboratories where they will blind-taste the bread, which is being made by the polytechnic.
In the physical education department they will learn how their bodies respond to different activities such as sitting, running and walking and then how much exercise they need to do to burn off common junk food items they eat.
They will also visit a supermarket to put into practice some of the skills they will learn.
On Friday the group will take part in the annual Pacific sports tournament, where the healthy lunches they design using the new bread will be served to all participants.
It is hoped the pupils will develop more of an interest in science, as well as in their health and eating habits.