Tailgating with a twist: Young people serve up healthy foods, fun at Super Bowl party

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Tailgating is known for fans parking their cars outside of stadiums hours before football games, grilling hot dogs and drinking cold cans of beer. 

But at the Super Bowl Kids Tailgate Party, Minnesota youth exchanged those traditions for healthy food served out of colorful cardboard food trucks.

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund’s Kids Tailgate Party on Jan. 31 at the Target Center in Minneapolis emphasized the importance of children’s health in Minnesota. The event was the conclusion of the Legacy Fund’s 52 weeks of giving, an initiative to provide a grant promoting youth health and wellness in Minnesota each week for one year leading up to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. 

Eva Hunderfund, a 10-year-old from Rochester, was one of 10 youth chef finalists in a healthy eating competition during the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee’s Kids Tailgate Party in January. Youth put a new twist on tailgating by serving up healthy foods during the Super Bowl week celebration. (Staff Photo)

The cause drew hundreds of Minnesota kids and their parents. NFL players and other celebrities were also at the event, including Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. Griffen spent time at the event signing autographs, enjoying the food – his favorite was the sweet potato skins, he said – and playing around with the kids. But he also made sure to emphasize the importance of the Tailgate Party message.

“Kids should be outside doing activities,” Griffen said. “Football, sports, running, playing with friends, instead of sitting [inside playing] a video game. It’s important to have that in your life.”

Also attending the event was Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who said the tailgate party was one of several events that demonstrated what Minnesota did well while hosting the Super Bowl.

“You don’t want to have the Super Bowl followed by no lasting legacy,” Frey said. “And these funds help encourage different programs that are helping youth and are social justice-oriented for the long haul.”

The event also honored 10 Minnesota youth who set out to make healthy recipes to share at the event. Those 10 “youth chefs” were the finalists of the Super Snack Challenge, a healthy food-themed competition that featured Minnesota youth ages 8 to 14.

Eva Hunderfund, a 10-year-old who attends Schaeffer Academy in Rochester, was one of the 10 finalists. Hunderfund spent most of her time standing near center court during the event, smiling and sharing her “Healthy Rainbow Towers” with hungry passersby. Her snack was made up of foods ranging from bacon and baby spinach to blueberries and pineapple. 

12-year-old Princess-Ann Nelson, who goes to Southside Family Charter School in Minneapolis, was also one of the competitors who attended the event. Her snack idea made it to the final 52 before the pool was narrowed down to 10 finalists.

“I feel like this is a really nice event to get the kids out, especially because it’s right downtown, it’s available to the north side and it’s also available to the south side,” Nelson said.

Dr. Edward Laskowski, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and a member of the Super Bowl Legacy Fund Advisory Committee, attended the event and said it highlighted everything the Legacy Fund had been focused on supporting over the 52 weeks of giving.

“It’s so important for kids to have a good foundation,” Laskowski said. “We find that about 80 percent of kids who are obese grow up to be obese adults. So if we get good habits established early and we get them eating clean, eating well, moving, learning the value of exercise and activity, they usually carry that with them through life.”

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen signs autographs for young people during the Kids Tailgate Party. (Staff photo)

The Super Bowl Legacy Fund’s final gift was a $220,000 grant to Anwatin Middle School in Minneapolis for the construction of a new athletic field.

“The Super Bowl garners so much attention. So what’s happening here, the focus on clean eating and getting kids moving and healthy, that’s going to go out to a lot of different places in Minnesota,” Laskowski said. “That message is an important message that we need to have told.”

While the excitement surrounding Super Bowl week in Minneapolis centered around the big game and the high-profile concerts, the impact of the Tailgate Party was especially memorable to young people like Hunderfund.

“This is amazing that I’ve been able to do this,” Hunderfund said. She paused, before adding: “It’s just really amazing!”

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