|By Natasha Clark|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee approved a Wellness Policy that promotes healthy schools by supporting wellness, good nutrition, and regular physical activity as part of the total learning environment.
A 22-person committee made up of students, parents, nurses and Food Service Director Julie Dougal, SNFS, worked on the policy. Dougal has been credited as the driving force behind the policy.
Poppy Nelson, RN and H/W Regional School District Nurse Leader, and Paula Serafino-Cross, MS, RD, LD who is also a parent of district students, attended a School Committee meeting to discuss the policy.
Serafino-Cross said Dougal, as Food Service Director, was open to discuss nutritional issues with her from the start.
"I would call her periodically when I had concerns or comments and she was always very receptive," she said.
Serafino-Cross said many had concerns about the school lunch program, including teachers and school nurses. President George W. Bush signing the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act also played a part.
The federal government invests more than $16 billion annually in child nutrition programs under the Child Nutrition Act, Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, and related programs.
On June 30, 2004, President Bush signed the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act into law to strengthen these programs and improve their effectiveness for America's most vulnerable children. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act is supposed to strike the appropriate balance between encouraging healthy environments that will address the childhood obesity epidemic while preserving local control for states, communities, and schools.
"It says if you are going to participate in the school breakfast and lunch program then you need a wellness policy ... to be in place September 2006," said Serafino-Cross.
She noted that getting kids to want healthy foods initially is not an easy task.
"I don't believe kids are not interested in healthy foods. You need to make the stuff interesting new taste, and textures and flavors. You offer children a variety of food and they'll try stuff," she explained, adding, "You keep trying. It's about repeated exposure. There's research that shows it takes 15-20 times of exposure before a child picks up [on a new food]."
Serafino-Cross also recognized the costs associated with eating healthier.
"[Dougal] has a very tight budget. It's $2 for a lunch at the high school and $1.75 [for other grades]. It's hard to put out a high quality meal for $1.75," Serafino-Cross said.
She added that getting everyone involved in the district is the key from the athletic department to the PTO all of which are included in the policy.
The goals are of the policy:
To provide a comprehensive learning environment for developing and practicing lifelong wellness behaviors.
The entire school environment, not just the classroom, shall be aligned with healthy school goals to positively influence a student's understanding, beliefs and habits as they relate to good nutrition and regular physical activity.
To support and promote proper dietary habits contributing to students' health status and academic performance. All foods available on school grounds and at school-sponsored activities are encouraged to meet or exceed the district nutrition standards. Emphasis should be placed on foods that are nutrient dense per calorie. To ensure high quality, nutritious meals, foods should be served with consideration toward variety, appeal, taste, safety, and packaging.
To provide more opportunities for students to engage in physical activity. A quality physical education program is an essential component for all students to learn about and participate in physical activity.
Physical activity should be included in a school's education program from grades pre-K through 12. Physical activity should include regular instructional physical education, in accordance with The Massachusetts Physical Education Framework, as well as co-curricular activities, and recess.
To establish and maintain a district-wide Wellness Committee with the purposes of developing guidance to explicate this policy, monitor the implementation of this policy, evaluate policy progress, and serve as a resource to school sites, revising policy as necessary.
To read the Wellness Policy in detail, see below.