Schools add two Es to three Rs
Exercise and eating right will be
by Bret YagerThe
Department of Education is ramping up efforts to get students
to eat healthy and exercise, which means kids can expects some
changes to their meal trays starting this fall.
least half of the starches offered at school cafeterias next
school year must be made of whole grains, said Kenneth Ortiz,
child nutrition specialist with the DOE.
The DOE began
implementing a host of food and exercise policies last year.
Schools have four years to meet new federal guidelines aimed
at making exercise and healthy foods a part of life for
Schools around the state -- and nation
-- were required to start committees last year to oversee
health issues, create wellness policies and make sure new
wellness guidelines are implemented.
New requirements also include at least 20
minutes of recess each day, nutrition education for staff, and
nutrition guidelines for food served on campus.
change of environment," Ortiz said. "Though we do teach health
education and nutrition, if we don't provide an environment to
practice it, it doesn't reflect well on us."
require that food at schools -- even items sold for
fundraisers or snacks given as rewards -- have no more than 8
grams of total fat per serving.
"That's the big one; a
lot of schools had questions about that one," Ortiz
Food cannot contain more than 2 grams of
saturated fat, any trans fat, more than 200 calories or eight
grams of sugar. Servings must contain more than 2 grams of
dietary fiber. Drinks -- except milk and water -- may be no
larger than 12 ounces.
The guidelines apply to all
schools that participate in the federal School Lunch Program.
Vendors here and across the country are revising their
offerings to meet the new requirements, Ortiz
Nutrition information for all products offered at
school must be available near the point of purchase, and all
meals must be made from fresh, local and minimally processed
fruits and vegetables, to the extent possible. Schools will
also push to make sure kids have a meal through the School
"There are lots of studies showing
that students perform better when they start the day with a
healthy meal," Ortiz said.
And while recess has,
historically, been driven by the recognition that teachers
need a break, "finally, there is somewhere on paper that
students also need a break," Ortiz said.
been complying with the mandate to create health committees --
often doing so through existing school community councils and
safety committees, Ortiz said.
Educators agree the
challenges of eating well -- and the temptation to grab
something quick but not healthy -- have only
"Often times, there's fast food available, a
convenience store right next to the school, and kids have a
Slurpee for breakfast," said DOE spokesperson Sandra Goya. "We
want kids to take what they learned home with
The DOE is highlighting the healthier approach
with a Department of Health partnership that will give $2,000
to four Big Island schools. The money comes with a challenge
to keep sending messages to students on healthy eating and
exercise. New this year, the Healthy Hawaii School Challenge
is designed to reward schools that have already made strides
toward implementing healthier policies, Ortiz
School were picked for having programs like
gardens integrated with nutrition education, hydroponic farms,
parent volunteers who lead kids on walks to school, and
morning exercise programs.
Waiakeawaena elementary schools and Connections Public Charter
School were selected for the grants, funded by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition program and the DOH
Healthy Hawaii Initiative Tobacco Settlement Special Fund.
Fifteen schools were chosen statewide.
"On the Neighbor
Islands, we've been noticing that a lot food service managers
come from hotels and private industries, so they're well
experienced," Ortiz said. "If they hear we're switching to
whole wheat next year, they've already done
Connections Director John Thatcher said his school
works to make kids aware of health issues, including a program
called Developmental Approaches in Science and Health, for K-6
students. Many of the school's science projects have a health
component, he said, like the sixth grade mission to Mars
project in which kids have to come up with foods that could be
grown and eaten in space.
Thatcher said the school may
use the grant for a food tasting party aimed at getting the
kids to try healthier dishes.
"If you can just get them
to try something healthy," he said.
is a challenge for all of us," he added. "Parents are working.
For all of us, it's a question of healthy versus what's
Thatcher said the school believes in eating
locally grown food whenever possible.
believe the Big Island should be the bread basket of the
state," he said.
The downtown Hilo school hopes to
lease 20 acres of Kaumana land from the state for a
"We may be able to develop an ag
program and perhaps move part of the school up there,"
Gary Yanagi, PE teacher for
Waiakeawaena, said he and cafeteria manager Clyde Takahata
team up to try to bring more exercise and healthy fruit and
vegetable snacks into the school. The cafeteria serves half
brown and half white rice cooked together, trying to get away
from refined starch foods that have been robbed of nutrients
and fiber, he said. Yanagi also promotes walking contests at
the family, faculty and complex levels.
"What I push is
exercise, eating healthy and the proper amount of sleep,"
E-mail Bret Yager at email@example.com.