CCPS re­ceives na­tional school health award

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— Six­teen county schools have re­ceived a na­tional award for pro­mot­ing healthy food and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

The schools re­ceived a bronze level award as part of Health­ierUS School Chal­lenge: Smarter Lunch­room, a vol­un­tary na­tional cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ini­tia­tive spon­sored by the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Food and Nu­tri­tion Ser­vice. The ini­tia­tive sup­ports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! cam­paign, which en­cour­ages stu­dents to live ac­tive and healthy life­styles.

CE­CIL COUNTY

All Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools el­e­men­tary schools re­ceived the award with the ex­cep­tion of Per­ryville El­e­men­tary School, which just re-opened a few weeks ago after un­der­go­ing nearly two years of ren­o­va­tions.

Ce­cil County is the ninth school sys­tem in the state to re­ceive this recog­ni­tion, which comes with a plaque, a ban­ner and a mon­e­tary award of $500 per school, or about $8,000.

“I’m very ex­cited,” said Scott Heck­ert, CCPS su­per­vi­sor of food and nu­tri­tion ser­vices. “We did a lot of work last school year to get our­selves through this ap­pli­ca­tion process.”

In ad­di­tion to the Food and Nu­tri­tion depart­ment staff, Heck­ert also gave credit to former depart­ment su­per­vi­sor Cathy Thomas, who re­tired from CCPS in June after 40 years and put a lot of work into the ap­pli­ca­tion process last school year.

That work pri­mar­ily in­volved three com­po­nents: mak­ing sure CCPS was in com­pli­ance with all USDA lunch and break­fast re­quire­ments, cre­at­ing ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als about healthy food and work­ing with schools to make sure they had the nec­es­sary amount of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity each week to meet the award re­quire­ments, Heck­ert said.

CCPS was al­ready in com­pli­ance with USDA re­quire­ments, even be­fore it be­gan ap­ply­ing for the award, but it’s some­thing a lot of other school sys­tems across the state and coun­try strug­gle with, Heck­ert said.

“We pride our­selves on stay­ing ahead of the curve and work­ing hard to (achieve the re­quire­ments), not be­cause we have to but be­cause it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

As part of its ap­pli­ca­tion for the award, Food and Nu­tri­tion did cre­ate some ad­di­tional ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als to be dis­played in school lunch­rooms. These in­cluded posters fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters such as “Su­per To­mato” and “Cap­tain Car­rot,” Heck­ert said.

“Things like that ed­u­cate kids but make it fun too,” he said.

But when it comes to get­ting kids to eat the healthy food, much of that de­pends on trial and er­ror, Heck­ert said. Food and Nu­tri­tion pays close at­ten­tion to what kids like and are eat­ing, and cafe­te­ria staff also fre­quently of­fer stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to taste test the food on the menu. Some­times, Heck­ert noted, stu­dents don’t know whether they like a cer­tain food un­til they try it.

Break­fast is an­other im­por­tant part of healthy eat­ing and CCPS of­fers the Mary­land Meals for Achieve­ment free break­fast pro­gram in 11 of its el­e­men­tary school. At the schools with­out the break­fast pro­gram, CCPS of­fers grab and go break­fast op­tions for stu­dents, Heck­ert said.

For the award, Food and Nu­tri­tion also worked with the in­di­vid­ual schools to make sure their stu­dents had at least 45 min­utes of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity a week — a re­quire­ment to earn the bronze recog­ni­tion. Be­tween gym class and the in­te­grated arts pro­grams at the schools, CCPS al­ready ex­ceeds that re­quire­ment, Heck­ert said.

CCPS now has the bronze award recog­ni­tion for the next four years, giv­ing the school sys­tem time to work to­ward the next lev­els of recog­ni­tion: sil­ver, gold and fi­nally, gold pre­mium. Heck­ert also hopes to get bronze recog­ni­tion for Per­ryville El­e­men­tary now that the school has re-opened.

“We want to con­tinue with the pro­gram and keep go­ing up,” he said.

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