Their efforts were spotlighted last week as Advocates for Health in Action announced the 2011 Brains and Bodies Awards recipients.
Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Tony Tata joined AHA in recognizing Wake County elementary and middle schools striving to improve the health of students and staff. For their efforts to increase physical activity and nutrition opportunities, St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School in Apex was one of four Gold Award designees, while West Lake Elementary won the lone Silver Award, and Olive Chapel Elementary earned one of the Bronze Awards.
“We are amazed by the innovative ways the winning schools are promoting health and wellness for everyone associated with the school,” said Laura Aiken, director of AHA and WakeMed Community Outreach.
“What set the Gold Award winners apart, though, is that they each have a Wellness Committee involving staff and parents and they are working hard to enforce their school wellness policy. This is key in maintaining and sustaining a comprehensive approach to health and wellness in the schools.”
“We congratulate our winning schools and applaud their outstanding efforts to emphasize the connection for our students and staff between maintaining a healthy lifestyle and its positive impact on achieving a high-quality education,” said Tata.
Other Gold Award winners include A.B. Combs Elementary, Fuller Elementary and Underwood Elementary in Raleigh.
Each of the Gold Award winners received the “AHA Brains and Bodies Award: Healthy Students Grow Here” banner to display in their school, a gift card to be used towards wellness initiatives, and resources for a fun school celebration.
“More than 43 percent of kids aged 5 to 11 in Wake County are overweight or obese,” said Aiken. “Our Brains and Bodies Gold Award winners are making a tangible difference in their schools, by making free walking and running clubs available to students, opting for school fundraisers that focus on fitness rather than unhealthy foods, highlighting healthy choices that are available at school and finding ways to focus on the child for celebrations rather than just food.”
AHA created the Brains and Bodies Award to recognize schools that are meeting and exceeding local wellness policies, including the WCPSS Wellness Policy. AHA’s team of nutrition and physical activity experts scored and evaluated applications and conducted site visits at a number of schools that applied. All school applicants will receive feedback on the good work they are doing and the team’s recommendations for ongoing improvement at each school.
“We hope that all schools across Wake County will be inspired by what these award-winning schools are doing, and often at little or no expense, so that they can make a difference in their schools and win next year’s awards!,” Aiken said.
In achieving a Gold Medal, St. Mary Magdalene School celebrated National Nutrition Month in March with taste tests for all students in the cafeteria and tips for a 5K training program.
As part of this effort, teachers weaved lessons about healthy eating into the classroom, and one new colorful food for each week of the month was available in the cafeteria for kids to sample and buy. The foods included mashed sweet potatoes, jicama, watermelon and spinach smoothies for St. Patrick’s Day. An interactive booth was set up in the cafeteria once a week as well, with activities about where food comes from, sugar and fat, healthy sports snacking and fun fitness ideas.
The school also conducted a school-wide survey regarding what changes staff, parents and students wanted to see in the cafeteria’s options for lunch. As a result, STMM has a fresh salad bar for grades 5-8, added snacks such as yogurt without artificial colors and string cheese, eliminated all snacks that are more than 100 calories and limited the number of snack choices.
Bronze Awards were also granted to Davis Drive Elementary, Mills Park Elementary and Northwoods Elementary in Cary; and Hunter Elementary, Swift Creek Elementary and Wildwood Forest Elementary in Raleigh. Farmington Woods Elementary in Cary earned Honorable Mention.
Additional information highlighting creative wellness initiatives at all the Brains and Bodies Award recipient schools is available on the AHA web site, www.AdvocatesForHealthInAction.org.