Experts are learning that there may be a correlation between students' grades and their health.
➺ Go, Slow, Whoa
Getting students to choose healthier food options begins with teaching them what those food options are. LiveWell Colorado, an organization focused on preventing and reducing obesity, has been promoting the Go, Slow, Whoa program in Colorado elementary schools. Designed at the National Institutes of Health, the program teaches students about “go” foods they can eat all the time, such as fruits and vegetables; “slow” foods, which are foods higher in fat and sugar that should be eaten in moderation; and “whoa” foods, which are special-occasion treats like birthday cake. “It’s sad but true that a lot of kids don’t know there is a difference between eating an apple and a brownie,” explains Maren Stewart, president and CEO of LiveWell. The program also supplies nutrition information students can take home to their families.
➺ Culinary Boot Camps
Over the past couple of years, the Colorado Health Foundation has been organizing culinary boot camps wherein school cooks and nutrition directors spend a week learning how to implement scratch cooking. Two years ago, high school staff members from Adams County District 14 attended one such camp, returned to school, and began making lunch items like salad dressing, barbecue chicken, and spaghetti with marinara sauce from scratch. Gradually, the district has been able to cut the amount of frozen and highly processed heat-and-serve dishes from 90 to 50 percent. “This year, we’re going to take it down even farther,” says Cindy Veney, manager of nutrition services for the district.
➺ Breakfast in the Classroom
Another effort underway in Adams 14—as well as several other low-income districts, including Aurora Public Schools—is Breakfast in the Classroom. “We have many severe-needs kids in the district who show up just in time for the start of school and they’re hungry,” Veney says. This program allows teachers to pick up breakfast for their students, take it to the classroom, and make it available during the first 15 minutes of class. Though only a year old, the program has shown impressive results. Teachers say behavioral problems are down and kids are more attentive. Health clerks say the lines outside their doors at the start of the day have been significantly reduced, if not eliminated. And CSAP scores recorded after the first year of implementation were up three percent in reading and one percent overall over the previous year.