Students assess nutrition options
WORTHINGTON -- Students in the Partners in Prevention program at Adrian, Ellsworth, Luverne, Hills-Beaver Creek and Round Lake-Brewster gathered in Adrian Wednesday to begin a new initiative that takes a closer look at nutrition in the schools of Nobles and Rock counties.
Organized by Nobles-Rock Community Health Services, the training was funded by the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant the agency received earlier this year to focus programming on tobacco and obesity prevention.
Paula Anderson, NRCHS health educator, said looking at nutrition options in the schools is one way to encourage better eating habits among children and teens.
"If kids are introduced to healthy options in school, they can develop lifelong habits of healthy eating and exercise," Anderson said.
Wednesday's training was presented by Catalyst, formerly known as Target Market. Presenters spoke to students about the importance of better nutrition in schools, saying that kids who eat nourishing foods in school tend to be healthier, more alert and get better grades than students who choose less healthy options.
Anderson said each of the students was sent home from the training with an assignment to assess their school's lunch program, the offerings in their vending machines and concession stands and also look at the fundraising programs conducted.
"Instead of selling tubs of cookie dough (to raise money), groups can sell fruits, vegetables, string cheese -- that sort of thing," she added.
Several students at Wednesday's training voiced support for getting more and healthier options in their schools, Anderson said.
"We're really at the ground level. We need to look at if changes can be made," she said, adding that the group wants to work with the school district on new options.
Perhaps one of the first changes that can be implemented is adding more healthy options in vending machines. In pilot programs in Iowa, Anderson said fruit and vegetable coolers have been brought into schools, with offerings accessible to students at all times.
"They use it more than the vending machines," she said. "If you make things easily accessible, people are more likely to do it."
Anderson said she'd like to see fruit and veggie coolers in every school, and expand it further to work sites.
"Kids and adults alike, if they're eating better foods, they're more likely to be active than if they're not eating good sources of energy," she said. "The trend of obesity has tripled in the last decade."
Anderson gave a brief report on the school nutrition project during Wednesday's NRCHS meeting in Worthington. During that meeting, NRCHS administrator Brad Meyer gave an update on the community H1N1 clinics.