Sandy Curwood: Healthy Schools ProjectFri 27 May 2011
Story by Sandy Curwood
Ventura takes a holistic approach to creating a healthy school environment by operating a district wide Healthy Schools Project.
The Healthy Schools Project provides learning opportunities for students to make healthy choices through a variety of hands-on experiences. Classroom nutrition education is enhanced with cooking instruction, label reading and information on making good choices.
Students also participate in school gardening activities which help them learn the link between food production and consumption and through exploring nature in the garden, students also gain real world learning in maths and science. School gardens grow produce that is utilized in the cafeteria, whilst learning about environmental stewardship and agricultural literacy.
Every school cafeteria features Farm-to-School salad bars sourced from local, sustainable agriculture and area farmer’s visit schools to do ‘Farmer in the Classroom’ lessons and provide ‘Mini Farmer Markets’ to students.
60% of meals are from scratch cooking and there is no flavored milk or chicken nuggets in elementary schools. Student knowledge gained in elementary and middle school experiences are extended in secondary schools and nutrition education is available through a variety of classes and vending machines only sell healthy food choices. The Healthy Schools Project models healthy behaviours by recommending and giving ideas for healthy class parties and non food fundraisers, which are encouraged in all schools.
Harvest of the Month is another great program utilised by the Ventura Unified School District which features a different fruit or vegetable each month, classroom teachers offer samples of the produce and give information on the crop and special salads are served weekly showcasing the Harvest of the Month. Each month, school libraries also feature a book for the Harvest of the Month fruit or vegetable.
Sandy believes that connecting the cafeteria to the classroom creates healthy, happy learning.
About the author: Sandy Curwood is the Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Ventura Unified School District. Pictured, far left.
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