Each year, during National Nutrition Month, Whitsons School Nutrition, a company that manages nutrition programs for public and private schools, partners with Long Island school districts to promote healthy eating habits and lifestyles.
National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
According to PrWeb, last month, Commack, East Islip and Hicksville School Districts participated in the campaign with wellness fairs; Nutrition Safari character visits; physical activities, such as yoga, zumba and karate and recycling efforts.
Students at Northridge and Indian Hollow Elementary schools in the Commack School District were visited by Murray the Monkey, an award-winning Nutrition Safari character, who spoke to them about the importance of sound nutrition and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
At Commack High School, Whitsons Vending set up a sample tasting table to increase students’ awareness of the many healthy items they can purchase from Healthy Vending machines, such as dried fruit and low-fat smoothies.
The Hicksville School District held its 2nd Annual Wellness Fair, presenting teachers, parents and students with the opportunity to learn about nutrition and to engage in healthy physical activities. Whitsons School Nutrition was on hand to offer practical nutritional instruction, such as how to measure meal portions and examine the fat and sugar content of popular foods.
As part of the campaign, East Islip School District was visited by Grant the Gazelle, another Nutrition Safari character, who promoted eating healthy snacks, including fruit, veggies and whole grains. According to Sue Kavanagh, PTA Council Nutrition Representative, “The children had a wonderful time learning the importance of healthy snacks. It was great to hear them name healthy snacks and see smiles on their faces.”
It is due to the alarming increase of childhood obesity that school communities are taking a proactive approach to promoting a healthy lifestyle. Consider these facts from the Centers for Disease Control:
- Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
- In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
According to the CDC, the health of students is linked to their academic success and both physical activity and healthy eating may help improve their academic achievement. Through supportive environments and programs that encourage healthy behaviors, schools play a critical role in promoting the health, safety and academic performance of young people.