Nutrition & Schools: A 2007 Plan
in New Jersey
School districts nationwide are scrambling to improve student health and nutrition, many in response to state mandates and corporate incentives. Through catchy slogans, celebrity posters, interactive teaching materials, and school wide competitions, schools are adopting programs designed to educate students about why proper eating and exercise affects health—and why they should care.
The “Eat Right, Move More” campaign, recently launched in Lodi, New Jersey, features posters of New York Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson telling students, “When I have a healthy meal, it helps me play my best. Your school cafeteria has a variety of nutritious foods to keep you going all day long. So get up, eat right and move more!” Joined by Gov. Jon S. Corzine and NJ Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus, Ferguson appeared at Columbus Elementary School in late November to introduce the program.
Children in the K–5, 270 student school have responded enthusiastically, Principal Vince DiChiara told Education Update in a telephone interview. The district’s suppliers increased the amount of low carbohydrate, reduced fat snacks offered for purchase. The school’s physical education teacher introduced a variety of activities and lessons that tie in with nutrition. “When I went to school, it was kickball everyday. Now kids can do lots of different types of exercise that will hopefully keep them interested in good eating and health,” he said.
New Jersey requires all schools to implement the new school nutrition policy by September, 2007. Covering pre-K– 12th grade, the policy limits fat and sugar contents in foods offered in a la carte lines, snack bars and vending machines, school stores and fund-raisers.
All the k–2 students enrolled at Virginia Road Elementary School in Valhalla, New York, received lessons in the “Eat Well, Be Well,” program that addresses fitness, nutrition, lifestyles and health education. Organized by staff from Blythedale Children’s Hospital and funded through a $175,000 grant from Kohl’s Department Stores, the program included classroom visits. Principal Ada Jimenez-Parker, while praising the school’s food service for eliminating junk food and offering healthy food choices, noted that at this young grade level, “children eat what parents give them.” She hopes the PTA will offer a parents’ workshop to reinforce the lessons. Holiday and birthday celebrations poise additional problems, she told Education Update. “It’s very difficult to tell parents not to bring in cupcakes. We haven’t said they can’t and I don’t see us doing that this year,” she said.
The Women’s Heart Foundation, based at Rutgers University, established “TEEN ESTEEM, “geared towards adolescent girls attending Trenton Central High School. About 125 sophomore girls annually are participating in a three year study ending in June, 2007. In addition to classes on nutrition and exercise, the girls receive intensive health screenings and monitoring for cardiovascular and pre-diabetic conditions. Funded by the state and the Horizon (BCBSNJ) Foundation, the program emphasizes how improved health leads to improved self-esteem, which in turn impacts school attendance and performance.#