Fact: elementary school kids really look up to high school kids. If they’re football players and cheerleaders, well, you’ve almost got a celebrity sighting.

This seemed like the recipe for a fun activity that would promote healthful eating to kids, thought Joe Consolmagno, Metz Culinary Management general manager at Bethel Park School District, Allegheny County, PA, a district with eight schools and an enrollment of 4,500.

Consolmagno is always thinking about more ways to “bring fun to the kids’ lunchtime,” he says.

Working with the football and cheerleading coaches and the principal at the high school, he organized a lunchtime meet and greet at five different five (K-4) elementary schools in the district.

The glamorous cheerleaders and tough football players came to lunch and encouraged the younger kids to choose fruits and veggies with their lunch, digging into the daily selection of at least 12 fresh options, such as apples, carrots, oranges, broccoli.

“They dressed in their uniforms, and the younger kids were just so excited,” Consolmagno says. “It was loud.”

The football players got behind the serving line, and the cheerleaders circulated throughout the lunchroom. To help break the ice, they signed autographs for the kids.

Each football player and cheerleader returned to the school they had attended when they were younger, which made the event special. They really enjoyed the experience, Consolmagno says.

“The high school kids were just as excited as the elementary school kids,” he observed. “One of the football players told me, ‘I didn’t know I was a role model.’”

A successful event all-around, this healthful-eating pep rally may develop into a year-round occurrence. After all, basketball season is upon us.