Two schools receive funding for healthy living program
Two schools in the Chinook’s Edge School Division are about to take the old adage, “an apple a day” and put it into practice.
Both Spruce View School and Cremona School were chosen to be part of a one-year project called Healthy Schools, Healthy Futures.
The program is a joint initiative between Alberta Health and Wellness, the Centre for Health Promotion Studies at the University of Alberta, and the Alberta Coalition for Healthy School Communities. Started in March of this year, the program runs until June 2013 and is aimed at teaching children healthy habits in nutrition as well as physical and mental well-being.
“We would like to capitalize on the opportunity to have a positive impact on students’ healthy behaviours while they are at the age in which their habits for the future are still forming,” said Spruce View School teacher Jeanette Greenough, who was appointed as lead teacher for the program. She pointed to studies that show 29 per cent of Alberta children are overweight or obese.
“If this trend continues, this may be the first generation of kids who may not live as long as their parents,” she said.
Currently 17 schools in Alberta have been approved for funding for this program. Meanwhile, 40 schools in northern Alberta have been funded privately through The Alberta Project Promoting Active Living and Healthy Eating in Schools (APPLE Schools). These schools have shown that behavioural changes can occur through a comprehensive school health approach.
Greenough’s data from APPLE showed a 10 per cent increase in fruit and vegetable intake by students and a 12 per cent decrease in caloric intake with an overall 14 per cent reduction in obesity.
“This is about a comprehensive approach,” she added. The focus, while on nutrition, also looks at fostering healthy social and physical environments. In Spruce View, a toast program started a few months back. Toast is provided in the primary and middle school wings in the morning for any children who may be hungry. There is also fruit available all day.
As well, the school has started creating themes each month generated towards a specific health topic. Last month the theme was vitamin D and the importance of getting outside and in the sun. This month, the focus is on stress. A bulletin board is set up in the hallway with various tips about the month’s theme.
The big promotion for the fall is a “Smoothie Tuesday” program Greenough plans to run. She said they have used some of the $8,000 in funding on commercial blenders. They’ve also purchased daily physical activity bins (DPA) which provide various games aimed at specific age groups and come with a binder full of activities. Teachers can take 10 or 15 minutes from class and have the students interact in an activity. She said in the fall, they also hope to start a “positive playground” program where junior high students learn group-based games such as jacks and marbles, hula-hoop games and more traditional group games that have been played by previous generations. Older students will encourage younger students to join in during recess.
“These will be active, cooperative games that students can choose to play at recess,” she said. “It will be an excellent opportunity to provide teen mentorship while engaging some of our youngest learners.”
In Cremona, principal Joanna Harvey is pleased the school will be involved in the one-year program.
“We are looking forward to having some time to promote this with the students and the teachers,” she said of the school working together.
“We started in February when we were given some teacher time. We are still mostly in the planning stages but we have done some programming with the Grade 5 and 6 students,” she said, adding that there are plans to fan out the program focused on having positive self-image to the other grades while also building on nutrition.
“Hopefully this will become sustainable,” she said.
Greenough shares the same concerns. She said while it’s great to have funding in place for the year, the money goes quickly, especially when they’re shelling out a large portion on the fruit and other food.
So far, the Spruce View Co-op has donated bread to the toast program and started a donation bin in the store. She is hoping to get more sponsors as well as volunteers to keep the program going.
She said while there is a handful of dedicated moms, having the same few carry out the day-to-day operations is not ideal, and certainly not sustainable. She said she’d like to see the program involve volunteers from all walks of the community including students’ family members, church organizations, service clubs and local businesses.
Anyone interested in helping with the program is asked to call Greenough at email@example.com or phone for her at the school (403) 728-3459.