On behalf of USDA, representatives from the state Department of Education presented the school with the HealthierUS Schools Challenge Gold Award of Distinction. The award, effective through February 2017, recognizes excellence in school nutrition and physical activity and is the highest of four levels available. Pinecrest is one of 83 schools in the state to receive this honor.
“You all have done an outstanding job promoting nutrition and getting your students on board, as well as yourselves,” said Sharon Golden, child nutrition education specialist for the state Department of Education. “You are the leaders in helping eradicate childhood obesity in the state of Alabama. As you all know, we all like to be No. 1, but we don’t want to be No. 1 in obesity, and that’s where we’ve been for several years. With the implementation of the HealthierUS Schools Challenge in school districts by administrators like (Sylacauga Child Nutrition Program Director Kelley Wassermann), we have managed to move from No. 1 to No. 5 in the national rankings, and that’s because of a dedication from the state of Alabama’s administrators to place an emphasis on eating healthy food.”
HUSSC is a voluntary program that raises nutritional standards, offering students fruits and vegetables daily as well as whole grains at every lunch, with portion sizes and calorie levels designed to maintain a healthy weight for growing children, according to a press release. Achievement levels are Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold of Distinction.
Indian Valley Elementary is also a Gold of Distinction winner, and Nichols-Lawson Middle School was one of the first middle schools in Alabama certified in HUSSC with a Silver award.
At Pinecrest, HUSSC was the springboard for other health programs funded through grants and community donations totaling more than $20,000, according to Principal Gary Rivers. These grants, awarded by agencies including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, The WAY, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Active Schools Acceleration Program, “Just Move” and others, will support creation of a garden and outdoor classroom and implementation of morning exercise classes, among other efforts.
Rivers credits Bill Roberts of SAFE’s community garden and third-grade teacher Pam Roberts for developing the garden and pursuing grants. He also thanked the grant providers and local vendors Conn Equipment, Reams Construction, Sylacauga Backhoe and Home Depot.
Superintendent Todd Freeman said at Tuesday’s event that he was impressed to hear about the award and charged students with positively influencing the adults around them.
“You have the most important job in that you have the ability to lead people like me, your parents and teachers to lead healthy lifestyles,” he said. “You are going to help us grow to be better adults, better parents and better community leaders, and I appreciate that.”
The Gold of Distinction award is proof that “the well-being of students comes first” at Pinecrest, according to Nutrition Director Kelley Wassermann.
“In Child Nutrition, it is our responsibility to help nourish students’ bodies so that the teachers can nourish their minds,” she said. “The excellent nutrition program in place at Pinecrest, along with the fun and enthusiasm of their physical education activities and wellness programs, combine to create an environment for the students to reach their full potential in all their endeavors.”
Lincoln Elementary, a county school, is receiving the same award at a presentation today.
Contact Emily McLain at firstname.lastname@example.org.