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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Reading, writing, arithmetic … and health

The Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Reauthorization Act of 2004 requires that school districts participating in federally subsidized child nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch program, must establish a local school wellness policy.Falcon School District 49 created a wellness policy council to comply with the act, and in June the council announced the completion of the district’s wellness policy.Michelle Lang, assistant nutrition services supervisor, said the district’s wellness policy is modeled on state requirements. The policy also governs the implementation of wellness guidelines, which, Lang said, were “designed to change” to meet the needs of the district. “It needs to be a policy that fits our district,” she said.Tracy Stuehm, D 49 parent and chairwoman of D 49’s Wellness Policy Council said the policy covered three areas: nutrition, wellness education and physical activity. The guidelines will be implemented in three stages: basic – all state and federal requirements for wellness will be in place in the 2007-2008 school year; advanced – includes basic, with additional healthy guidelines implemented in the 2009-2010 school year; and exemplary – includes advanced, adding more healthy guidelines for the 2011-2012 school year.”We’re trying to make a big change in behavior,” Lang said. “We don’t want to go from just nothing to exemplary all in one step.” Lang said the council wanted to develop guidelines that all schools could meet.Under the basic nutrition guidelines, students will be allowed at least 10 minutes to eat breakfast and at least 15 minutes to eat lunch in a supervised dining area, with seating to accommodate all students served during each meal. The meals must comply with the United States Department of Agriculture regulations.The proposed advanced and exemplary levels set standards for servings of fruits and vegetables and the sugar, fat and fiber content of the food served. For example, whole grain foods might be offered at least three days a week at the advanced level and five days a week at the exemplary level. The guidelines also address the quality of food items available in vending machines and food items for classroom parties, celebrations, rewards, fundraisers, intramural events and after-school programs.”Right now, vending machines are to be turned off during the school day, but they are available after school,” Stuehm said.At the basic wellness education level, the guidelines require at least five hours of classroom wellness education per year for all students, increasing to 10 hours at the advanced level and 15 hours at the exemplary level.Wellness topics like hand washing and the importance of drinking water will be introduced to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. The relationship of food to energy and learning to read food labels are examples of topics that might be covered in elementary grades. Middle and high school students will learn about wellness issues like the long-term risks of unhealthy food choices, how to evaluate fad diets, healthy ways to gain or lose weight, eating disorders and basic food safety and food preparation skills.Stuehm said the council “struggled” with guidelines for physical education. “We would like to get kids more physical education each week, but their days are so full of other activities,” she said. “We’re still trying to find a way to increase the time for the advanced in a couple of years, but right now we had to stick with 40 to 60 minutes a week for elementary school.”We feel that the students should not miss more than half of their recess time due to punishment. Sometimes, those kids need to be active, and when they are held back and not allowed to be active, I think more problems develop. Stuehm also said the guidelines discouraged the use of physical activity, such as running laps or doing push-ups, as a way to punish a student.She said the council focused on the holistic approach to wellness. “I think the committee has put in place policy guidelines that are easy to follow and look out for the well being of our students and staff,” Stuehm said. “We are looking at everything you can do mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically to create total body wellness.”

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