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Image: "Sesame Street" characters
Richard Termine  /  AP
"Sesame Street" characters Elmo, second from right, and Super Grover, right, pose with four new Muppets representing healthy food groups; fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy.
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updated 11/23/2010 8:38:17 PM ET 2010-11-24T01:38:17

"C" is for cookie. And "N" is for nutrition.

The folks at "Sesame Street" are hoping to spell out a message of eating well with a new initiative aimed at fighting hunger.

The program, "Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget," is being put together by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind "Sesame Street." It's aimed at the 15 percent of households in the U.S. — accounting for approximately 9 million children — who don't get food that meets basic nutritional needs due to financial instability.

"We found there were really very few resources engaging young children and helping them engage not only in healthy habits but also in knowing that as a family they're not alone in this," said Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of content design for the education, research and outreach department of Sesame Workshop.

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The program provides families with an educational outreach kit which includes a video featuring four new Muppets, the "Super foods" — banana, cheese, whole-grain roll and broccoli. The video also features Elmo and friends, plus real families, as they try new foods, learn about healthy snacks and discover the importance of sharing a meal together.

And, of course, the broccoli knows how to boogie.

"All our 'super foods' actually sing and dance and encourage the kids and Elmo to try new foods and try new snacks, to eat healthier," said Betancourt. The food Muppets aren't joining the official "Sesame Street" cast, but they will be featured on a December show.

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The 400,000 kits, available in English or Spanish, will be distributed through sponsors UnitedHealthcare and The Merck Foundation, as well as other organizations.

"Sesame Street" has been spreading the message of good nutrition for some time. Big blue Cookie Monster learned a while back that cookies are a "sometime" food. The new initiative promotes the idea of "anytime" foods, healthy snacks like low-fat yogurt or cheese and whole-grains.

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There also is a budgeting segment with Art Smith, former chef to Oprah Winfrey. For Smith, who grew up watching "Sesame Street," cooking for Elmo is "truly a dream."

"It's amazing to be a part of something that I care so much about," he said.

In the video, Smith and Elmo make a "really delicious healthy stir-fry" with chicken and spinach. He also suggests "one-pot wonders" for parents who want to cook dinner but don't have a lot of time or energy for the task.

"The lovely thing about food is we all share, we all appreciate," he said. "It's that common ground where we all come together."

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And how does Elmo feel about this?

According to Smith, "Elmo's a foodie. He's got the most amazing food vocabulary."

We talked to the little red guy himself — or at least Kevin Clash, who plays Elmo — to get his take on eating well.

"Trying something can be hard. You may not like it when you first see it, but you won't know until you take a bite and try it one time," Elmo/Clash said. "Just remember that you should realize what is a sometimes food, what is an anytime food. It's very important because that keeps you healthy and strong and Elmo always says, 'Eat happy, play healthy.'"

Materials from the outreach kit will be available for free at http://www.sesamestreet.org/food.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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