Health Is Important at Encino School In California

Health Is Important At Encino School In California

Fri 06 May 2011

Story by Stacy Steinberg
 

The Health Is Important Program (“HIP”) at Lanai Road Elementary in Encino, California, is a unique collaboration of parent volunteers, teachers, school administrators, food service personnel, and community and corporate partners.

The program, conceived as a School Site Council initiative in 2003 by parent volunteers, is designed to enhance a healthful nutritional environment and encourage the importance of physical activity throughout the school community.

Though we do not have access to the programs and funds available to Title 1 public schools, we have initiated our own health advocacy efforts, and support these through booster club fundraising activities. One of HIP’s first program initiatives was our Harvest of The Month program, which provides the entire student body samples of fresh seasonal produce during recess, along with take home recipes and nutritional information to share with their families. We are now fortunate enough to partner with corporate sponsors to provide fresh, local, organic produce for this great program each month.

When I joined the Lanai community in 2005, I drew from my professional experience as a Registered Dietitian to help develop a comprehensive nutrition education curriculum as part of our HIP Program. What began as a pilot effort in 2005 to teach nutrition in a handful of classes, has now grown into a fully integrated, standards - based nutrition education program in nearly all classrooms, with the support of teachers and school administration.

Over the last six years, I have volunteered to teach over 800 lessons to students from Kindergarten through 5th grade. In addition, I have partnered with local university programs in nutrition and dietetics, to provide an opportunity for students to learn in our unique environment and to gain community experience by providing bi-annual nutrition education programs for families.

In 2006, we initiated an annual Fruit and Vegetable Challenge in honor of National Nutrition Month, to encourage our students to learn about and eat more fruits and vegetables. Every March, we challenge each class to eat a predetermined minimum number of fruit and vegetable servings during school lunchtime for the entire month. Progress is tracked on a classroom chart, and classes which achieve their goal receive a healthy lifestyle reward. The program generates tremendous momentum and excitement, leaving students pleading for more fruits and vegetables in their lunchboxes, and parents asking for every month to be the “Fruit and Vegetable Challenge”!

Another proud HIP initiative is our weekly fruit and vegetable salad bar, supported by parent volunteers, which allows the students the opportunity to make fresh, healthy selections during lunch. When our salad bar initially began, it was provided as a full meal option. However, due to broader school district budget constraints, it now continues as a weekly fresh fruit and vegetable bar accompaniment to our regular cafeteria menu items. Salad bar Wednesday still remains one of the most popular days in the school cafeteria!

Since HIP’s inception, we have observed students increasing their fresh produce intake and trying a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. Families jump on board to support their children by setting an example at home, and our teachers and administrators strive to be a living example of healthy eating and physical fitness. It is through these efforts that the true cooperative spirit of Lanai Road Elementary shines.

About the author: Stacy Steinberg is the Nutrition and Education Coordinator for the Health Is Important Program based in Encino, California.

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