Food Director Julie Evans applied last fall for the HealthierUS School Challenge award after getting the cooks, school nurse, administration and physical education teacher on board. She received word in July that the schools would be recognized as a healthy school.
But the truth is, the administrators began discussing and implementing a wellness plan for the schools nearly a decade ago. That is what put the schools in the forefront of so many other schools and that is why they were deserving of the award, said Ann Feilmann, Bureau Chief of Nutrition and Health Services for the Iowa Dept. of Education. She was on hand Thursday to present the award to the staff and the students, all of whom have worked hard to make the plan work and even enjoyable.
Feilmann said that she was pleased to be able to present the award and said Schaller-Crestland and Ridge View have done an "excellent job staying ahead of the curve. The students will be the winners in the end."
It has been a learning process to make changes but what better place than school to make them.
"We make you smarter in math and reading and science and social studies," said principal Ellen Pickhinke to the elementary and middle school students present for the award ceremony, "but we also want you to be aware of being healthier." Supt. Dave Kwikkel added, "I'm so dog gone proud of you. This is a celebration of you all thinking of yourselves and thinking of your wellness."
The new school lunch program is packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, smaller portion sizes and no more sugar-packed desserts. Students are encouraged to eat more of the fruits and the vegetables so they are not hungry at the end of the day. Evans sees it working every day.
The extra activity the students are receiving in PE with Angie Willer is also being enjoyed by the students.
"When they are having fun, they will be more likely to want to exercise when they are older," Evans added.
Not only are the kids making healthy changes but so is the staff. There are six kitchen staff members at the two schools which Evans calls her "fearless warriors" who cook, get things done and are always encouraging the students to try new things.
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary certification initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.
To date, HUSSC awards have been given to schools in 48 states. As of Aug. 20, there are 4,096 schools certified.
Many schools find that applying for the Challenge is a valuable learning process that helps their school wellness team focus on areas needing improvement.
The schools received a plague, banner and a $500 award to use towards hot lunches.