2012-10-11 / Front Page

Brain food

Nutritious meals await Port Aransas students
By Alex Scott Reporter

Second grade students show their enthusiasm for lunchtime at H. G. Olsen Elementary Thursday, Oct. 4. 
Alex Scott Second grade students show their enthusiasm for lunchtime at H. G. Olsen Elementary Thursday, Oct. 4. Alex Scott As health and nutrition continue to top statewide school concerns, the Port Aransas Independent School District continues to put in a collaborative effort to provide healthy initiatives throughout the district.

Through the Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC), the Port Aransas Education Fund (PAEF) and the Port Aransas ISD Department of Nutritional Services, students are receiving a cooperative trifecta of health and nutritional resources.

The H-E-B Healthy Campus Grant, which was awarded to H.G. Olsen Elementary School in January and promises $5,000 a year for three years, is managed by SHAC and provides fitness programs, health education, and some food for the fruit and vegetable bars provided by PAEF.

In coordination with the PAEF donated food bars, SHAC is planning events to utilize the food bars outside of lunch and to aid in nutritional education. A farmer’s market for students will be held in January to provide the children with food education, and students will have a fun way to learn and purchase fruit and vegetables with fake money. Another event in its planning stages is a “Wipeout” style obstacle course for the students that will take place on the beach. SHAC works directly with the schools to provide the school-sanctioned events. It is also through SHAC and the Department of Nutrition that healthier food options make their way to the children.

The PAISD Department of Nutritional Services director Amy Boulanger, also is taking extra steps to provide the students healthier and exotic food choices all within the federal regulations. The department stresses whole foods rather than processed foods, and Boulanger hands out free fruit and vegetables to all students at lunch, promoting awareness of some less well-known foods, like jicama. SHAC assumes the role of providing the students with the education and information to make healthier choices. It is at this juncture that planning and coordination are paramount, and all initiatives have to fit into federal regulations to be eligible for the school reimbursement program, said Boulanger.

The types of food served in public schools is strictly regulated by the U. S . government and has daily caloric parameters, as well as weekly protein, bread, fruit and vegetable requirements. Although the caloric intake for elementar y schools and middle schools does overlap, Boulanger develops separate menus to provide middle school students with different food than younger elementary school students.

Though children have been notoriously bad at eating their vegetables, the students at Olsen elementary are spearheading the healthy child revolution.

“I like bell peppers,” said kindergarten student Ryan Kirkenhall. “I just started eating them.”

But for some students, the old adage of kids and their vegetables has found a basis of truth.

“I don’t like broccoli, it is just gross,” said second grader Phi Pecor.

Though some children have not taken full advantage of the health food bars, just having them around will increase the children’s exposure to healthy eating habits, said Jennifer Kidd, chairman of SHAC.

“The kids are very aware of what everyone else is eating,” said Kidd, “they are so observant about that.”

Food concerns in schools have recently made national headlines, especially with the popularity of a YouTube video, We are Hungry, created by high school students in Kansas. The events that prec ipitated the video response were the federal caloric intake limit, which tops out at 750-850 per meal for high school students. The students alleged that the limit was too low, and that they suffered from lack of energy especially in student athletes. Port Aransas High School has largely avoided the issue with off campus lunch for students in 10th to 12th grade, who have the choice to eat at their homes or at local restaurants.

Adding the health i n it iat ives with school lunch policies, such as a lunch wish list at Burndrett Middle School, students have considerable influence in the foods they are able to eat. All three entities plan to continue working closely together to provide the highest level of health and nutritional options available through their collaborative efforts.

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