Resources for parents for kids’ health at school

boy with apple

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Arvind_Balaraman

As a local mom with a kid at Chancellor and another at Bulkeley, I’m concerned not only with what’s served in the cafeteria but what’s taught to my kids about the healthy habits of good nutrition and exercise. Although I try to teach them (i.e., drill it into their heads) whenever the opportunity presents itself, it doesn’t always stick, so supplementation at school sounds like a good thing.

A conference on April 5 that I covered for a health column in the Woodstock Times — the Healthier Hudson Valley Challenge at BOCES in New Paltz — gave me some good ideas for ways health education can be woven into the school day. Although the event was geared toward school staff and administration, I took away lots of stuff parents can use. At the conference representatives of organizations both local and national offered ideas that sound well worth exploring.

Some of them—many of which have already been implemented here in Rhinebeck—included:

  • Health fairs that bring in community partners
  • Classroom visits by farmers and chefs
  • Student groups and clubs that focus on nutrition or fitness
  • The creation of school gardens, since kids are more likely to eat food they’ve had a hand in growing
  • Applying for the many grants—large and small—that can help make the above projects happen

The most local helping organization is of course Nourish Rhinebeck, our nutrition committee, but a little further afield is Hudson Valley Farm to School at hvfs.org. It was founded by Sandy McKelvey of Cold Spring, Putnam County, who created popular and fun Veggie of the Month and Chef in the Classroom programs in area schools. She offers technical assistance to other districts on action planning, curriculum development, cooking techniques for local produce and assistance in making connections with local farms. She can be reached at sandy@hvfs.org. The National Farm to School Network is at farmtoschool.org.

Jackie Lawler of the Orange County Department of Health  said she is willing to advise other districts in applying for grants for Farm to School Programs, and she said that Cornell Cooperative Extension will help make connections with farmers.

Breakfast in the Classroom sounds like an awesome idea to me, as I have one kid who has zero appetite when he first gets up. The program can be incorporated into the beginnings of the school day and has many benefits. Andy Calvano, the food service director of Newburgh’s school district, who was on a panel and has lots of experience with the program, thinks it’s a great thing.

The National Dairy Council and the National Football League (with support from the USDA) have joined forces to create Fuel Up to Play 60, a nutrition and physical activity program that involves 11 million students across the country. The emphasis is on long-term positive changes through physical activity programs like:

  • Walk/Bike to School
  • You’ll Love Yoga
  • Walk it! Club

Parents can sign up as Supporter or Advisor and joining makes schools eligible to apply for funding.

Tim Bult, the director of health and athletics and chair of the wellness committee at the Fallsburg Central School District (two buildings and 1600 students) said his district applied for and received a $1.2 million PEP grant, and so was able to build a fitness center with free weights and machines, fitness training, climbing walls and a new sound system!

Further resources are online at Action for Healthy Kids and The School Day Just Got Healthier at Healthy Schools NY (NYS Department of Health).

–Jennifer Brizzi

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