Newberry County School District moves towards a culture of health
Coleman Tanner, MPH, CHES
Advocacy and Public Policy Manager, ESMMSC
Newberry County Schools are making strides to promote healthy eating and active living as part of their everyday culture. Gone are the days of serving chicken wings, calzones, and regular pizza. Teachers are incorporating ‘brain’ breaks into the students’ days, making physical activity part of their lesson plans.
District Food Service Director Carolyn Barnes says because of the new Smart Snacks guidelines their students are getting more fresh fruit and vegetables and less fat, sugar and sodium. However, even before the guidelines went into effect, they were moving in a healthier direction.
“All the grains served are whole grain, from biscuits to the breading on chicken,” said Barnes. “It’s important to have the principals’ buy-in, so we included taste tests as part of their administrative retreat.”
School Food Services now promotes and provides Smart Snack-approved foods for classroom celebrations, allowing parents to buy healthy cupcakes and other snacks, like healthy pizza, from the school for birthday celebrations.
“It’s a win-win because it saves parents time, and the children are getting a healthy snack,” said Barnes. “Parents have really bought into this.”
Recently they worked with Newberry Elementary to host a spaghetti supper fundraiser. The event not only served to raise money for a fifth-grade class trip, but it also gave parents an opportunity to try the new and healthier items.
Other changes underway include redesigning the cafeterias to look more like a café, making them more inviting, especially for high school students. The food line is also set-up to look more like a restaurant, making it easier to serve and give it a more appealing presentation.
Recognizing that breakfast is essential to starting the day out right, Newberry County Schools serve a universal breakfast at no charge to students. According to Barnes, they are constantly testing and trying new products to encourage their students to start the day with a nutritious breakfast.
In addition to creating healthier food choices, the district has also increased physical activity during the day. Just a Minute (JAM) is a quick way to give kids a brain break and to incorporate movement into their day. School Nurse Coordinator Tricia Ulch said, “At first, teachers were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get kids back on task, but what they found was after the activity, students were more productive.”
Ulch acknowledges change can be hard, even when it is the right thing. “It’s good to see the principals embracing a culture of health.”