Elementary schools earn national health recognition
For the first time since the HealthierUS School Challenge began in 2004, five Utah schools received recognition this year. Four of them are in the Park City School District. Parley’s Park, Trailside, McPolin and Jeremy Ranch elementary schools earned bronze medals for healthy school environments, according to Kathleen Britton, the director of food services for the district.
In order to qualify for the award, administrators needed to identify how they are creating a healthy environment in schools through offering nutritious school lunches and teaching physical and nutrition education. Britton said she has worked toward bringing whole-grain breads and pastas into the cafeteria for the last two years. Students can also visit the all-you-can-eat fresh fruit and vegetable bar in the cafeteria each day during lunch.
"In order to get kids to accept things, you have to gradually do it or else you’ll have a rebellion," Britton said. "Now all of our bread products are whole-grain. All of our rice and noodles are brown rice or whole-grain."
The challenge isn’t just about food at school, but teaching children to be physically active and aware of nutrition at home as well, Britton said. Park City schools are among only a few in Utah that employ certified P.E. teachers.
One or two faculty members at each elementary school teach every grade-level throughout the day, explained Nate Brown, who teaches P.E. at Parley’s Park Elementary School. The key is to teach the students about the importance of safety in an age-appropriate way, Brown said. The nutrition curriculum helps students understand the food pyramid and how fresh produce differs from foods with high concentrations of sugar.
Each student at Jeremy Ranch, Parley’s Park and Trailside participates in 45 minutes of structured physical activity twice each week in a classroom like Brown’s. Students at McPolin Elementary School have two, one-hour P.E. classes each week, according to P.E. teacher Cathy Kinshaw.
"It’s important to know the capital of China, but you need to be able to understand nutrition," Trailside P.E. teacher Dan Meier said. "We are the one subject you will live the rest of your life." Meier gave students a chart this week to help them keep track of what types of food they eat at home.
A representative from the United States Department of Agriculture will present the awards at Trailside Elementary during a special ceremony Tuesday, March 22, at 1 p.m. Parents and other community members are welcome to attend, Britton said.
The next level of recognition is the Silver Medal, which Britton applied for in January. Each school will receive $500 for receiving the Bronze Medal. If the schools become Silver rated, each will receive $1,000. Britton said she hopes to earn Gold in the elementary schools and apply for the award in the middle schools next year.
Freedom Academy, a Provo-based charter school, was the fifth school to receive the award last year.
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