Food For All Retools GoZonkers Exercise Program

FALLS CHURCH, Va. GoZonkers, the elementary-school exercise program developed by Food For All here, is bouncing back to life. The hunger-relief charity developed GoZonkers as a turnkey program for classroom teachers to get their students up out of their seats for a few minutes to exercise. It is positioned as a weapon in the battle against childhood obesity and targeted to children in pre-kindergarten

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — GoZonkers, the elementary-school exercise program developed by Food For All here, is bouncing back to life.

The hunger-relief charity developed GoZonkers as a turnkey program for classroom teachers to get their students up out of their seats for a few minutes to exercise. It is positioned as a weapon in the battle against childhood obesity and targeted to children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We ran a few pilots, and now we are working on redesigning it,” said Denis Zegar, president and chief executive officer, Food For All. “We are redesigning the delivery of the program.”

GoZonkers, which also includes messages about healthy eating and encourages exercise outside the classroom as well, will target the increasing number of underfunded schools that do not offer physical education programs, he said.

“If you go into any of the wealthier communities, they are going to have PE in the schools,” Zegar said. “But 92% of the elementary schools in the country have cut it out, so we are going into these areas that need this type of program for health benefits.”

Food For All had previously conducted pilot fund-raisers a few years ago with a handful of retailers, including Wild Oats and Bashas'.

“That's where we learned how we need to make changes in the program,” Zegar said.

In 2006, SN reported that a pilot fund-raiser for GoZonkers in 145 Wild Oats and Henry's Farmers Market locations raised $16,000 — less than anticipated, which officials chalked up to a confusing message at the checkout displays.

The program includes a storyline that involves fictional characters — Zonkers is one of them — who engage in a series of adventures that students share in by performing exercises in the classroom.

“The teachers love it because of an unanticipated benefit — it calms the kids down,” Zegar explained. “They have all this pent-up energy because they don't get any exercise. The thing we learned after all these comments from teachers came in is that it is easier for the kids to learn because they can settle down faster.”