Health and fitness rely to a great degree on creating healthy habits, and many of the nation’s school lunchrooms have taken up the challenge of serving healthier meals to help instill those habits in today’s children.
Yesterday Pinecrest Elementary School in Sylacauga received special recognition as a Gold Distinction certified school in the Healthier US Schools Challenge. Today, Lincoln Elementary School is scheduled to receive the same level of recognition, the highest of four levels of superior performance in the initiative.
Houston Elementary in Talladega has also earned honors in the program, as have Indian Valley Elementary and Nichols-Lawson Middle School in Sylacauga. Nichols-Lawson was one of the first middle schools in the state to earn recognition in the program. Other schools in the county system promoting healthier eating under the new standards are Childersburg Elementary, B.B. Comer Elementary, Watwood Elementary, Sycamore Elementary, Stemley Road Elementary and Munford Elementary.
Judging by our growing waistlines, a renewed emphasis on nutrition and health are needed and, the school lunch program is a practical place to start.
More than 5,000 schools nationwide have taken on the challenge to help improve their students health and fitness. Schools earn recognition by making changes to improve the quality of foods served, providing students with nutrition education and providing students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.
It’s a challenging job, and we appreciate the commitment of those who work in the nutrition programs who have taken on new challenges to help make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. Changes in food acquisition and preparation may be the most obvious changes in schools, but it takes the support of the entire school community to get the most out of the effort.
The certifications are based on four-year commitments to meeting program standards. They include meeting the requirements of the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program. It means serving meals that reflect good menu planning principles, such as serving a variety of healthier foods that look good, taste good and appeal to the cultural sensitivities of the school and community populations.
And it means emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, reducing fats, and cutting down on sugar and salt.
The growth in obesity in our society has been obvious, and the increase in maladies stemming from obesity, poor nutrition and lack of exercise are epidemic. Those are not problems that can be remedied overnight. Teaching a new generation better habits for nutrition and exercise is a great way to start turning the tide for better health and longer, more fulfilling lives.