A walking, talking slice of Florida citrus fruit soaked up some California sun and mingled with San Fernando High School students Friday as dietitians promoted healthy living during lunch hour.
The "Orangeman," as the Florida Department of Citrus mascot is known, accompanied nutritionists from Project Lean, a program funded through the California Department of Health Services to tout such healthy strategies as eating five fruits or vegetables a day.
The nutritionists blended bananas, strawberries and orange juice into an estimated 10 gallons' worth of smoothie samples, which a substantial slice of the school's 3,000-plus student body readily consumed.
"I'd drink them all day," said Nigel Hill, 15, a 10th-grader.
Mike Hertado, 16, an 11th-grader, disagreed.
"It's pretty good," Hertado said. "But it's kind of sour. I think it was the orange juice."
As Hertado watched the surge of students with his tart-tasting drink in hand, the Orangeman radiated a fixed grin across the crowd.
Behind that beaming persona was Craig Moss, a 25-year-old Cal State Northridge junior and Project Lean intern from Santa Clarita. The costume was flown in from Florida.
"It's fun, but it is so hot in here," Moss said. "I can't see anything. Somebody's been throwing things at me. I think I got hit with a banana."
Ruth Frechman, a Project Lean coordinator, led students in Hula-Hoop competitions and gave out free movie tickets to those who hooped longest.
"Proper nutrition will reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes," Frechman said. "Teach them while they're young."