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‘Madden’ comes to life: Students meet ex-NFL players at ‘Super’ food event

Updated February 13, 2024 - 7:52 pm

Las Vegas eighth grader Ade Olubummo was familiar with the name of former NFL running back Rashad Jennings from the times when he and his father, both big New York Giants fans, played the “Madden NFL” video game.

But on Thursday, the 13-year-old West Preparatory Academy student got to meet Jennings in real life during a “Super School Meals” event that coincided with Super Bowl week.

“He’s a real nice, down-to-earth guy,” Ade said before the ceremony at West Prep, a Clark County School District campus in Las Vegas with preschool through 12th graders.

The ceremony celebrated the completion of a community service initiative providing 72 high-needs Nevada schools with grab-and-go school meal equipment, including carts and milk coolers.

Three-fourths of the Clark County School District’s students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches. And 1 in 5 Nevada children live in a household struggling with food insecurity.

Ade, a member of West Prep’s student council, interviewed Jennings and two other panelists in front of an audience at the ceremony.

He called the experience “very surreal” and said it was “very cool” meeting NFL players.

Jennings and Former NFL player Morlon Greenwood were joined at the event by the Las Vegas Super Bowl LVIII Host Committee, nationally recognized pastry chef Lasheeda Perry, national nonprofit youth wellness organization GENYOUth, school district officials and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long.

Attendees also included representatives from Frito-Lay, Quaker, PepsiCo Foundation, Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation in partnership with Smith’s and Dairy Council of Nevada.

More than 100 West Prep students were in the school gymnasium’s bleachers.

It was the second recent event at West Prep related to Super School Meals. The first was in September to kick off the initiative.

‘Really inspired’

The goal was to bring equipment to 58 schools across Nevada because it’s the 58th Super Bowl, but that mark was surpassed, said Ann Marie Krautheim, CEO of GENYOUth.

Long with the USDA told the crowd: “I am really inspired by this initiative.”

The event Thursday is part of a nationwide movement to take school meals to the next level, she said.

The USDA is making “gradual updates” to the school nutrition standards that are grounded in science and stakeholder feedback, Long said.

The changes include emphasizing more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and focusing less on products with a lot of added sugar, she said.

Brad Keating, executive director of the school district’s engagement unit, said the district serves about 240,000 meals every day, including breakfast, lunch and supper.

Before the ceremony, Ade said his mother normally makes him a lunch that he brings to school, but he sometimes eats the school lunches.

His favorite menu item at school? Breadsticks.

“I really like those a lot,” he said.

Panel discussion

Ade interviewed three panelists — Jennings, Greenwood and Perry. He asked them a few questions about the role school meals played for them, why nutrition is important and what advice they have for students.

Greenwood, a former linebacker for the Dolphins, Texans and Raiders when they played in Oakland, said he was born in Jamaica and came to the United States when he was 11 years old.

“My childhood dream was to help my family,” he said.

Jennings said that as a student, he was overweight and asthmatic, and had a 0.6 GPA. He said he was the “most unathletic guy.”

Jennings went on to spend eight seasons in the NFL, won a season of the TV show “Dancing with the Stars” and became a New York Times bestselling author.

Perry — who has been featured on Food Network and who’ll participate Saturday in a Taste of the NFL event that benefits GENYOUth — said she realized at age 15 while a student at a Philadelphia high school that she wanted to get into culinary arts.

She said that she was academically driven as a student. She graduated as valedictorian and earned a full-ride scholarship to a culinary school.

Perry told students: “Eat good and have dessert later.”

As for advice for students, Greenwood told them that once they identify a goal, they have something to focus on and work toward.

He also encouraged them to do research and talk with professionals in the field, then “put in the work.”

Jennings encouraged students to find someone they look up to and figure out exactly how they’re accomplishing something.

He also encouraged students to ask questions.

Perry told students that what will set them apart is not just technical skills, but interpersonal skills.

“I’m out of questions,” Ade concluded, and he thanked the panelists. “Yeah, that’s it.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com. Follow @julieswootton on X

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