‘Commit to be Fit’ initiative lives up to its billing
Over the last five years, the Commit to Be Fit Program (C2BF) has had a positive impact on Rappahannock County Public Schools (RCPS). Its mission is to educate students and the community about healthier food and exercise habits.
Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley, along with the help of RCPS staff members Jackie Tederick, Amanda Butler, Jacqui Lowe-Barton, and Holly Jenkins, brought the program to the elementary school and high school. The program was generously supported by the PATH Foundation, whose mission is to strengthen the health and vitality of Rappahannock, Culpeper, and Fauquier Counties.
C2BF began in both schools as a center for nutritional and physical education, one being a Neuronasium at RCHS and the other an Action Based Learning (ABL) lab at Rappahannock County Elementary School (RCES).
The RCHS Neuronasium incorporates classes on nutrition and personal fitness. Students in this class can participate in unique interactive activities, such as field trips to a fresh produce market and cooking healthy meals in class. At RCES, the program focuses on the developmental motor skills and movement gaps in primary grade levels. By participating in these various movement activities in the lab, studies show the academic performance of students increases.
The C2BF program also heavily influences meals served in both schools. Primarily at RCES, C2BF not only develops new recipes for student lunches, but also educates students and staff during cafeteria hours. A few times a month, the C2BF team Jackie Tederick, Holly Jenkins and Jeremy Gates present displays of healthy food and engage in nutritional education with students and staff at both schools.
Along with meals and cafeteria lessons, the C2BF Team also focuses on interactive lessons in the classroom. An example of this is the after school Fresh Food Fiesta Cooking Series, which features lower RCES grade levels preparing healthy dishes. Other lessons have included local agricultural leaders who have shared their nutritional and agricultural wisdom with RCES students. Occasionally, the regional farm-toschool liaison Liz Beling visits the Elementary School to conduct food samplings and tasting of healthy food.
The C2BF Program has also benefited the RCPS staff with many accommodations throughout the year. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, faculty are able to purchase fresh local produce at a farmer’s market on school grounds. There are also in-person and virtual fitness classes, and events and
workshops offered to both RCPS faculty and the community members 18 years or older, with no fee involved.
In addition to its RCPS outreach, the C2BF program also fulfills its mission to bring wellness, nutritional and physical education to the community outside of the schools. In past years, C2BF has conducted a “turkey trot race,” however this year they took a new approach for a community and school-wide “turkey trot photo challenge” where participants share photos of exercise activity during the Thanksgiving season.
When asked of any new initiatives C2BF is undertaking, Holly Jenkins, one of the founding members of the program, said “Commit to Be Fit’s theme for our sixth year is to ‘reboot’ many of our offerings and reimagine wellness in our schools and community. Like other programs, we had to pivot and change some of our offerings due to the pandemic and necessary safety mitigation procedures.”
Jenkins explained that C2BF is introducing its free staff and community fitness classes as well as reopening the high school Neuronasium for all classes at RCHS. At RCES, Jenkins said they are conducting fun, monthly taste-testing in the cafeteria to focus on
nutrition education. This spring, RCES students will be growing a variety of herbs and vegetables using an outdoor raised bed garden and an indoor hydroponic tower garden.
“As of now, our tower garden is filled with lettuce that ABL classes planted earlier in the semester,” said Jenkins. “Once the student-grown food is ready to be picked, students will harvest it and incorporate it into some of the foods that we make in cooking classes. For example, last year, students grew cilantro and used it in a homemade salsa recipe. This year, cooking clubs are held after school and are offered as a two week workshop series for grades kindergarten through seven.”
The C2BF program continues to grow and is embedded as a part of what continues to make Rappahannock County a unique place to live. From cafeteria lessons to classroom cooking sessions, and produce markets to community races, the program continues to have a positive impact on daily life in both the RCPS community and the Rappahannock community as a whole.