Elementary School Seven Principal Michele Heenan welcomed the opportunity to have her students take part in a Fit and Fun School to Community Partnership.
"Several months ago I was contacted by Traci Hopkins, management services coordinator of the Healthy Community Alliance Inc., regarding applying for a mini grant to benefit the school," Heenan said. "The initial conversations focused on the purposes of the grant and then we started coming up with ways to incorporate healthy choices in our everyday school routine. This tied in nicely with the 'Let's Move!' initiative, launched by the First Lady Michelle Obama. We as a school want our students to make healthy choices when they eat and to get more physically active."
The first event was a taste testing of healthy food choice.
Dunkirk Elementary School 7 Students participated in a healthy snack taste testing event.
"The students were encouraged to eat a rainbow of colors each day," Heenan said. "They completed a pre-test prior to the food tasting and many students had never tried some of the foods like broccoli or melon."
Following the taste testing, the students completed a post-test and the school will be interested to see the results.
The Rural Health Network located in Gowanda was happy to provide the Fit & Fun program to Dunkirk Elementary School 7 and nine other schools across Western New York through our partnership with the P2 Collaborative of WNY who received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation AF4Q Population Health Project.
Fit & Fun is a primary prevention program developed by the Healthy Community Alliance to encourage children to eat healthy and be physically active to prevent disease and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Information and educational sessions are presented in a fun and simple way to students through age-appropriate activities designed to encourage healthy eating habits and emphasize the importance of regular exercise.
At School 7, the K through fifth-grade students will participate in activities to reinforce the Fit & Fun message each year as they continue through fifth grade. Activities include Healthy Snack Taste Testing, Healthy Choices Sticker Program, Fitness Bucks Activity and Auction, and Family Fit and Fun Night.
Students in K through second grade learn the importance of good nutrition and choosing healthy snacks by reading the "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" during a Healthy Snack Taste Testing Event. Students are then led into a discussion and are encouraged to sample a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables including broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, honey dew melon, grapes and orange slices. A big, colorful 5-foot rainbow and many props are used during the activity to remind students to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. This activity allows young students the opportunity to try different foods and in most cases introduces them to a new and different healthy choice.
Data has shown that if given the choice, students will eat fresh fruits and vegetables including broccoli and honey dew melon. The impact of the activity is also being brought home to family members as one little girl came home from school and told her father not to pack cookies in her lunch every day and she should have a fresh fruit or vegetable instead.
In the fall, third- and fourth-grade students will participate in a Healthy Choices Sticker Program. Students are awarded stickers during lunch for choosing and eating fruits and vegetables from the lunch line or packing healthy snacks and beverages. Students have the opportunity through incentives to try foods at lunch they may have never tried before - thereby realizing the "green beans" really are not so bad. At the end of the program, stickers are redeemed for prizes.
In addition, fifth-grade students will also participate in Fitness Bucks which encourages more physical activity. Students track amount of physical activity they are engaging in and earn "fitness bucks." "Bucks" are used to bid on physical activity prizes in a silent auction. Students will also be encouraged to decrease screen time during this activity.
A Fit and Fun Family Night will also be scheduled in the fall providing interactive demonstrations, music, dancing, contests, healthy snacks and informational displays for the whole family and community. Participants will enjoy the Fear Factor Food Wheel and participate in a nutrition scavenger hunt to ultimately sign up for a 30 day family health challenge.
The Healthy Community Alliance and P2 Collaborative of WNY are also collaborating with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus and Allegany County, Erie 1 BOCES Healthy Schools NY program, and the United Way of Buffalo to bring all program components to Dunkirk.
"We are very excited about our partnership and about future events we have planned for the students," Heenan said. "Together we can make a difference."