HOPE – Local restaurant owner Juan Rivera gave Clinton Primary School third graders the whole enchilada on healthy eating habits recently as he linked the story of his success in the restaurant industry to understanding that lesson.

“Go to the grocery store with your mom and find a vegetable that you have never eaten, and try it to see if you like it,” Rivera offered.

Rivera was the featured program for the Color Me Mexico healthy eating and living series at CPS hosted by Hope Schools District Nurse Renee Sells and CPS Nurse Glenda Newton.

Rivera said he learned to eat healthy and the value of fresh, healthy ingredients at an early age. Born and reared in Mexico, Rivera immigrated to the United States at age 16, and he began working for a Chinese restaurant owner.

Learning the value of using fresh and healthy ingredients was part of his rise to become assistant manager of the restaurant before eventually striking out on his own, he said. Rivera said that Mexican food is considered healthy, but without fresh, healthy ingredients it can lose its appeal.

Rivera demonstrated his point about healthy ingredients by preparing a guacamole salad on-stage, explaining the origins and various uses of each ingredient during the preparation. He noted that, while most of the students might enjoy a freshly-prepared guacamole salad, using dated ingredients immediately renders this pleasant-looking and tasty dish unappetizing.

Chelsea Fuller, an employee at Rivera’s Amigo Juan Mexican Restaurant, confirmed Rivera’s point as she emphasized the need for youngsters to eat right to grow right. She said food service workers must know how to recognize freshness and maintain it in serving the public.

Rivera’s daughter, Adrianna, a former CPS student of Ms. Cynthia Murphy, and alumnus of Hope High School, said eating healthy not only aids proper growth development, but also aids memory skills. A graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Adrianna said she is currently preparing to attend medical school, and needs to eat healthy more than ever to maintain proper study skills.

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