This past school year students across the nation noticed a change in the types of foods offered in their school lunch lines. Many parents and students cheered at the sight of whole grains and a greater variety of fruit and vegetable choices. For others, change was hard and unwelcomed.
Perhaps the cutest story of a kid struggling to adapt to change comes from Barren County Public Schools in south-central Kentucky. One day in the lunch line there were brown paper napkins instead of the usual white. One little boy immediately noticed the difference and according to school board member Shelly Groce, he raised his hand to his head in despair and exclaimed “Awww man! Now we have whole-wheat napkins too?!”
After hearing stories such as these and moderating Barren County’s public forum to discuss challenges as a result of the changes, Jacy Wooley with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation saw an opportunity to broker resources to provide the district support with promoting good nutrition and exercise. At the time, Kentucky Action for Healthy Kids was offering substitute teacher reimbursements for teachers to attend a Healthy Schools Summit. Jacy worked with Assistant Superintendent Mark Wallace to register PE teachers and some district wellness leaders for the event.
At the summit were several speakers sharing the benefits of the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Fuel Up to Play 60 provides a theme for schools to promote good nutrition and physical activity that kids of all ages can get excited about. They also have grant opportunities to aid schools wishing to follow Healthy Schools Program best practices such as conduct yearly taste tests and increase physical activity opportunities throughout the school day.
Trojan Academy leaders were quick to join and soon they received a $2000 grant. Physical Education Teacher Nathan Peters saw this as an opportunity to introduce the positive benefits of exercise balls to the students. “My classes will be exposed to multiple exercises that will encourage and promote life-long fitness and activity. During the small note taking portions of my classes, students will use exercise balls instead of sitting on the floor, which will eliminate exposing the backs to poor posture and possible future spinal problems” stated Coach Peters.
To help with nutrition education, the school’s 21stCentury afterschool program designated half the grant money to use in their Barren Beyond the Bell program. They had their first guest chef, Mindy McCulley, from the Barren County Extension Office who partnered with students to prepare a healthy meal with fruit salsa. Of the program CheyAnne Fant, 21st Century Afterschool Director explains, “Barren Beyond the Bell offers many opportunities for fitness and nutrition education during afterschool hours and our hope is to take student knowledge and expand the impact to families we serve in our programs.”
Barren County Public Schools remind us that all change, small and large, is difficult. Important to overcoming challenges change presents is having a team of leaders and community resources working together for the same goal of promoting a healthy culture.
Posted in Childhood Obesity, Nutrition, Physical Activity, Schools
Tagged childhood obesity, exercise, food, healthy eating, Healthy Hunger-Free, nutrition, obesity, physical activity, physical education, school lunch, school meals, schools, student wellness, teachers
Deciding what to get my Uncle Norman for Father’s Day, or any occasion, was always a struggle. Since he enjoyed cooking, one year my sister and I got him an expensive paring knife that was extra sharp with a weighted handle. He continued to use his cheap and worn out one. He had a closet full of clothes and more than enough white socks to last years. There was nothing on this planet he seemed to need or want.
Last year my gift was time. I remembered him saying he had never visited any of the stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so I printed their free passport from the website and we made plans to visit the trail together. Below are some pictures from our journey.
Having lived away from home for 10 years and only seeing my family during most holidays and a few summers, I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to do something special together. The gift of time is something I wish I had thought of much earlier – he passed away three months later.
Working in non-profit I often joke it’s easier to get people’s money than their time. I never thought the same was true for our closest relationships, but I’m guessing that applies more times than not for our friends and family too. For me personally it’s extremely difficult to spend time with everyone who is special for me. Even now that I’m back in my home state, everyone seems so scattered.
My suggestion to anyone looking for that perfect gift is to make a special effort to spend some quality, uninterrupted time together. Time is the greatest gift in the world.
Over the last two months I’ve developed a special Wednesday evening ritual. After working all day I spend a couple of hours with a great text-book, take Angel (my dog) for a long walk, and then we get in my car to pick up an order of cheese sticks and salad for dinner. When I get home I pour a glass of wine to accompany my “meal” and settle in for some stimulating online conversation on public administration theory with classmates from Villanova University’s Master of Public Administration Program while Angel sleeps by my feet. It’s become my favorite night of the week.
Yesterday I deviated slightly from my routine. When I called in my cheese stick order I left out the salad. The woman taking my order gave me an expectant “Is that all?” Not thinking anything of her question I said “that’s it” and hung up the phone. When I arrived the woman brought me my order and with a big smile asked me “Don’t you usually get a salad with your order?!” Crap. Healthy schools lady just got busted for not adding vegetables to her meal.
Angel caught stealing my avocado
So there’s my confession to all of my fellow health advocates – I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me. Yesterday I only had three servings of fruits and veggies instead of five. I’m not perfect and I’m well aware that cheese sticks is not a proper meal. One day I’ll order salad no cheese sticks to make up for my mistake.
The lesson from this story is a reminder that whether we realize it or not, people around take notice of our words and actions. Those actions may model, educate, and influence the people around us – for better or for worse.
Once I was in a back and forth exchange over various research reports that suggests our social networks impact our health. My friend finds this information offensive and says it unfairly suggests obesity is contagious. My position is that we tend to mimic behavior of people around us. When my friends join a team sport, I also join in on the fun and exercise. When I go to dinner with friends who eat vegan, I take the opportunity to try a new vegan dish to support their choice (and save the cheese for Wednesday night!). Conversely, when I spend a large amount of time with friends with poor eating habits, I relax my own choices. We all have the ability to influence and be influenced by those around us.
Modeling good behavior goes beyond getting positive attention – it also sparks change. Last year when I moved to small town Kentucky I quickly became known as “the girl who always walks her dog.” From February 2012-13 I never saw one other person walking a dog. The past two months with the return of nice weather I see various people dog walking at least a couple times a week. I can’t be certain it’s because of anything I’ve done, but I can say what was unique last year isn’t so much this year. I would like to think the difference from last year to this is that there were enough people modeling easy ways to live healthier that inspired others to make steps toward change.
What do you think? Please leave a comment how your small action made a difference to people in your life.