Nutrition initiatives: classroom education and lunchroom action
BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
Resurrection College Prep life skills department chair, Lori Stevens, presents a unit on nutrition to a health class.
School success often depends on access to wholesome nutrition. Students in many schools have been equipped with dietetic knowledge, which prepares them to take an active role in their health by being mindful of what they eat in the cafeteria and beyond.
At Resurrection College Prep High School, students are educated about nutrition and wellbeing through a three to four week unit. The objective of the curriculum is to ensure that students are able to make well-informed decisions that will support a hale and hearty existence.
“During this time, students participate in activities that teach and reinforce five main topic questions: What is healthy eating? How does food preparation contribute to health? Why are there so many problems in the U.S. due to poor eating habits, despite all the available information? Why is one diet healthy for one person but unhealthy for another? How can I be a healthy eater?” said Kathleen Heneghan, communications coordinator at Resurrection College Prep High School. “Two highlights of this unit are the nutrition fair and the food analysis project.”
Heneghan goes on to say that during the nutrition fair, the students learn how to compare fat and sugar content from different fast food restaurants; they discover how important a healthy breakfast is; and they learn how to read food labels. In addition, the students are involved in a weeklong food analysis project.
“They write down everything they eat and input it using choosemyplate.gov. The website then lets the students know what they have to do in order to become healthy eaters,” Heneghan said. “Students know about good nutrition and the difference between healthy food and empty calories, but it’s another thing to have a week’s worth of data in front of you that shows your daily habits and how that effects your overall health.”
Wolcott School in Chicago places the student first when determining what educational initiatives are imperative in its diverse population. Consideration of the health and welfare of each scholar is of utmost importance.
“Wolcott School is Chicago’s first independent college-prep high school for students with learning differences. The curriculum is tailored to the strengths and aspirations of each student,” said Rachel P. Spiro, director of admissions at Wolcott School in Chicago. “Our health program, includes lessons on nutrition for adolescents. As for lunch, we provide students with a natural and organic hot lunch.”
A wellness program enacted by St. James School in Highwood, which has been written by the Office of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, focuses on the fitness and health for students in all grades.
“One purposeful action on the part of the school was to remove the soda machine from our cafeteria,” said Mary Vitulli, principal at St. James School. “The faculty and staff of St. James agree that wellness and good nutritional habits begin when you are young.”
The nonprofit food service company, Food Service Professionals (FSP), delivers a variety of freshly prepared, made-from-scratch lunches, which includes: milk, whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables-locally grown and organic when possible, to St. James School every day.
“In addition to complete meals, a different a la carte salad is offered each day, featuring an apple-Craisin salad, chef salad, chicken Cesar salad or fiesta salad with black beans and corn,” said Joanie Lombardo from FSP. “All salads are prepared with organic romaine lettuce. The school lunch menu follows USDA’s nutritional requirements.”
Vitulli said: “St. James is devoted to working with our students and their families in understanding what it takes to stay healthy.”
Effectively, schools have taken a brawny role in preparing their students for healthy lifestyles through academic initiatives as well as by providing healthful options in the lunchroom, setting the stage for vigorous lives beyond the classroom.