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July 27, 2010 > Healthy eating is the aim

Healthy eating is the aim

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis

The familiar phrase "You are what you eat" promotes good eating. Teachers know healthy eating and learning go hand in hand, and practicing what they preach, schools apply good nutrition principles to daily menus. Focusing on the whole child, food and nutrition professionals aid learning through encouraging healthy habits, both in nutrition and fitness.

Breakfast currently is considered the most important meal of the day. Various research studies have shown that having a good breakfast results in improved math and reading scores, absenteeism and tardiness decrease; it causes better classroom behavior, and fewer visits to the school nurse. Overall, students learn better when they eat a satisfying breakfast.

Local educational facilities serve more than breakfast during the regular school year. Lunch and snacks are also part of the daily schedule. For example, New Haven Unified School District (NHUSD) served 7,000 breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to the six elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools. Participants in the extended day program also received afternoon snacks. All other districts are equally productive and all follow the USDA guidelines for meals, foods, and beverages served to students.

Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) established the Hayward Nutritional Learning Community Project (HNLCP), integrating nutrition education into math, science, language arts, and social studies. HNLCP combines two basic health messages: eat at least five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and spend 60 minutes a day in physical activity. This project is effective. In schools where nutrition education has become part of the curriculum, students are eating 50 percent more fresh produce as part of their school lunches.

Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) had a special nutrition-based offering this summer. Poonam Dandekar, a student intern from San Jose State, taught classes on one aspect of healthy eating, "re-think your drink." Dandekar instructed three preschool classes, two elementary school groups, and one high school class on the amount of sugar in many beverages, and the advantage of water over sodas.
MUSD will increase food services this upcoming school year by adding breakfast programs at two more schools. One elementary school will have a pilot project. Lunch will be served after recess. The premise is that students will eat more carefully when they are not anxious to finish the meal in order to get to recess faster.

Newark Unified School District participates in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program, following federal guidelines. The Newark Unified School District Child Nutrition Department participates in SHAPE California.

SHAPE's campaign, for both schools and child development programs, introduces children and youth to healthy dietary practices, which promote health and physical activity. Both aid in optimal learning and growth. As part of the SHAPE program, all food products and recipes are analyzed. Fat, sodium, and animal protein are decreased, whole grains and pastas are increased. Computers, essential to needed analysis, have been installed in all the cafeterias.

This summer New Haven Unified School District has a free lunch program, the Seamless Summer Food Program. This is open Monday through Thursday, Noon to 12:30 p.m. to any child 18 years of age or younger. Attendance varies but ranges around 100 daily. The program, sponsored by the California Department of Education, began June 23, and ends July 29. A typical menu is one fruit (apple or orange), chips, and a sandwich-which varies from a chicken patty or grilled cheese to a hamburger or burrito. The choice of beverage is milk or chocolate milk. Occasionally a special treat, such as pizza, is added.

HUSD also has a summer food program through the USDA. At three locations, it serves lunch for any community member between 0 and 18 years of age.

Fremont Unified had a limited schedule for the summer. Special education students had summer classes but this was the only program offered. FUSD had no special food programs this summer.

Be aware of your food and remember, "You are what you eat!"

School district nutrition programs:
Fremont: (510) 651-2587
Hayward: (510) 784-2600
Milpitas: (408) 635-2894 ext. 6505
New Haven: (510) 475-3992
Newark: (510) 818-4281

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