NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal and a team of experts — including Tyler Florence ’94, ’04 Hon. — set out to conquer childhood obesity as part of the ABC network’s Shaq’s Big Challenge. The reality TV series documented six obese children being put through the paces of a nine-month fitness and nutrition program.
In January, the North Miami Campus transformed one of its culinary labs into a test kitchen for Florence to create healthy cafeteria recipes, with the assistance of the campus' Admissions Events manager, Tatiana Paolucci ’00, and 10 culinary students. The university served as the backdrop for the show's fourth episode, as on-campus participants tried out some of Florence's nutritious recipes. All six children successfully completed the program, each losing between 25 and 77 pounds. In addition, O'Neal met with Florida governor Charlie Crist to help make physical education mandatory for children at Florida’s public elementary schools; he also got Broward County Public Schools to serve Florence’s healthy lunch recipes in all of its cafeterias. “Shaq’s Big Challenge brought the dangers of childhood obesity to a national forum, and hopefully helped American families make important lifestyle changes,” said Bruce Ozga ’92, dean of culinary education for the North Miami Campus.