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Game On! North Dakota Schools take on Nutrition Challenges and Are Winning!

 

Kristy Anderson, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, was recently a guest blogger on the USDA Blog.  Kristy has been a tireless advocate for improved nutrition in school meals as a strategy to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.  AHA recently participated in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative, connecting them with school nutrition professionals and other partners dedicated to supporting healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.

It’s the number one killer of Americans and it costs the most to treat. Yet 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases would disappear if we practiced a little prevention such as eating right and exercising more.

Prevention is absolutely essential when it comes to our kids. Right now one in three children in the U.S. are overweight and obese, and only about one percent meet the American Heart Association’s criteria for ideal heart health. Poor nutrition habits are putting children at risk for diabetes and fatty liver disease, and 90 percent of kids consume too much salt, which puts them at risk for hypertension – once thought to be an adult-only disease.  For the full text of Kristy’s blog post, CLICK HERE.

Nearly 100 school food service directors, food service industry representatives, school administrators, Registered Dietitians, public health nutritionists and NDSU Extension employees came together in early June in Fargo for the Working Together to Grow Healthy Kids Summit.

School foodservice programs serve the majority of North Dakota children every day, and the meals served are getting healthier every month! Changes to the school food and nutrition environment have been taking shape over the last four years, and the word is getting out on how North Dakota school foodservice professionals and community supporters are succeeding at meeting the challenges of change.

Nearly 100 school food service directors, food service industry representatives, school administrators, Registered Dietitians, public health nutritionists and NDSU Extension employees came together in early June in Fargo for the Working Together to Grow Healthy Kids Summit.

The day began with nationally recognized speaker, Dayle Hayes, who speaks across the U.S. to share ideas and examples of how “School Meals Rock.” Just like at school, participants started with breakfast and were reminded by Dayle that “Breakfast Changes Lives for Children,” at school or at home. Children who eat breakfast miss less school, do better in math and are more likely to graduate. Along with healthy meals and snacks, including frequent bouts of physical activity in the school day including recess before lunch can help students focus and achieve. For more great ideas for enhancing school meals, snacks and comfortable meal environments check out http://schoolmealsthatrock.org/

A highlight of the day was the delicious lunch, which also happened to be healthy and meet the nutrition guidelines for high schools. The chef at Fargo’s Ramada Inn worked with the American Heart Association (AHA) Midwest Affiliate to cook up a colorful taco salad meal flavored with salsa, heaped with fresh vegetables and garnished with whole corn chips.

Pediatrician Dr. Miriam Vos, an AHA volunteer, delivered important messages over lunch that focused on her work with children whose health has been impacted by lack of access to nutrition and enough physical activity. Dr. Vos is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and conducts research on childhood obesity and nutrition and advocates for the critical role of schools.  http://news.emory.edu/tags/expert/miriam_vos/index.html

After lunch, many great ideas were shared by North Dakotans working to build healthy kids in North Dakota.

  • Grand Forks Public Schools boost breakfast with creative ideas including 'Grab & Go' breakfasts that can be quickly picked up and eaten on the way to class. http://www.gfschools.org/pages/gfschools/Departments/Child_Nutrition
  • Valley City Public Schools works with the Young People's Healthy Heart Program to teach heart health through family fun & fitness http://www.healthyheartprogram.com/
  • NDSU, MSU and Concordia are placing student teachers in area classrooms to learn how to incorporate movement into the classroom.
  • Fargo Public Schools have turned to scratch cooking, developing recipes & student input to improve meal programs http://bit.ly/1e1762Y
  • The Fresh Connect Food Hub is getting local food to schools and other organization in the SE Minnesota area http://www.lcsc.org/Page/549
  • The Towner Granville Unified School District has been leading the way for farm to school programs in North Dakota with 10 years of working with their FFA program to grow fresh vegetables for their meals. http://www.grandforksherald.com/content/granville-nd-garden-illustrates-success-farm-school-movement
  • Cass Clay Alive! Is helping schools ensure active recess, which helps children achieve better health and also better behavior in schools http://www.dakmed.org/cass-clay-alive/schools-alive/
  • The foodservice industry is taking a "can-do" attitude to help source and provide foods with less sodium and more whole grains for the schoolchildren in our state. Distributors suggest that responding to change will take some prediction of amount of product that will be used to keep in stock. Manufacturers, such as Dickinson, North Dakota-based Baker Boy, cited changes in product formulation including reducing sodium by 25 percent in all baked items. Most all industry and foodservice speakers noted that reducing sodium remains one of the biggest challenges.

Because of their wide reach, schools have the opportunity to provide many of our children with healthy food.  School foodservice personnel are stepping up to the challenge, and our children are adapting to those changes! Each of us in our roles as parents, caregivers, teachers, health professionals, decision-makers and policy makers can support these efforts in our homes and communities to help our children learn to their fullest ability and become healthy, productive adults through better nutrition at school.

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