Principal Melissa Myers introduced 280 second and third graders to a few visitors in the Heights Murray Elementary School cafeteria last Thursday, February 1.
Cheers of excitement quieted to a dull roar as a petite woman clad in a white dental coat embroidered with an oversized carrot pocket led the discussion at the Wilkes-Barre Area elementary school.
Dr. Winifred J. Booker, CEO of the Children’s Oral Health Institute traveled from Owings Mills, Maryland with Program Director Chiquita Veney to share a message, and a bright orange lunchbox concept that she had created more than 20 years ago.
“Lessons in a Lunchbox teaches the child independence; therefore it provides her or him the ability to brush and floss using the dental kit, the carrot case, and the lunchbox,” Dr. Booker said.
She developed the program around an ingeniously crafted carrying case, designed to teach elementary school children the importance of dental hygiene.
Before each child received their bright lunchbox of treasures — a plastic carrot filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and a rinse cup — the group viewed two “Peanuts” films about proper brushing and flossing techniques.
During Lessons in a Lunchbox, the children learn the following: flossing, brushing and fluoride, healthy dietary choices, good eating habits, and about careers in dentistry.
All hands on deck to demonstrate and distribute included students from University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, members of the Wilkes University Pre-Dental program , volunteers from Benco Dental, and Judy Hislop, 11-year dental hygienist for the Wilkes-Barre School District.
The lunchboxes included information in English, Spanish, and braille, and were donated to children in five Wilkes-Barre Area School District elementary schools by the Benco Family Foundation, a project of Pittston-based dental distribution company Benco Dental.
Rebecca Binder, executive director of the Benco Family Foundation, told the Times Leader:
“Our foundation helps support access to dental care and dental health projects and programs across the country. It’s important because everybody deserves to have access to good, high-quality dental care.”
“I believe the most valuable aspect of Lessons in a Lunchbox is that it puts the most essential parts of oral health all in one spot,” said 24-year-old dental student Jasmine Faldu, shown above, of Barnegat, New Jersey.
Fourth year University of Pennsylvania dental student Najm Alanbari shares high points of his experience.
“My favorite moment of the day was sitting down among the students and watching how they were paying such close attention to the screen. I feel like it will make changes.”
“Lessons in a Lunchbox is a creative and innovative way of teaching children how to take care of their teeth, while being hands on,” said Victoria Bilski, of Wilkes-Barre, a sophomore student in the Pre-Dental program at Wilkes-University who volunteered at the event.
In regard to volunteerism, Connie Dombroski, Director of Health Science and Student Success at Wilkes University, said, “I tell dental students to access local dental offices and use their family and social networks to see what volunteer opportunities are out there.”
– Shannon Bowen, Benco Dental Editorial Intern, contributed to this story.