by Elean Gersack
The Douglas County School District (DCSD) is pushing forward to bring healthier foods and wellness into local schools. According to the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, all school districts were mandated to adopt a school Student Wellness Policy by July 1, 2006. The DCSD Board of Directors approved such a policy this summer and has since tasked its Health Advisory Committee (HAC) with implementing a detailed Wellness Plan throughout the district.
Registered nurse Paulette Joswick is the Health Services Coordinator for the DCSD and manages the HAC. The committee is comprised of a team of health professionals, parents and educators committed to raising the wellness bar in the school community. “We would like to go beyond what we have to do and do even better for our students. Nutrition and wellness are essential to learning and lifelong well-being,” said Joswick.
Some of the components of the Wellness Plan include nutritional standards, recess and outdoor play, staff wellness, physical education, food marketing, and cafeteria meal environment. With a significant rise in childhood obesity rates, unhealthy eating habits and inactivity, the Wellness Plan addresses overall plans to help guide children into healthy adults.
Ala carte food items at middle and high schools are already being reviewed for fat, saturated fat and sugar content. New items will have no trans fat, less than 35 percent fat, less than 10 percent saturated fat and less than 30 percent weight from sugars. “This may not be ideal for some health professionals and parents, but it is a huge step forward from the past,” said Bev Elseman, Assistant Director of Nutrition Services for Douglas County School District.
The district also plans to utilize more fresh foods as well as examine the benefits of having recess prior to lunch. “Kids are in such a hurry to get outside to play, they barely eat anything and then run out the door. Having recess first provides kids with the ability to both exercise and work up an appetite,” said Jenny Brett, HAC parent and Personal Fitness Trainer.
A pilot program will begin during this school year at several Douglas County schools. The pilot will help the HAC access the program and make adjustments as needed. As the pilot program wraps up, changes will be made across all Douglas County Schools.
Parents interested in learning more about the HAC can contact Paulette Joswick at Paulette.Joswick@dcsdk12.org. To view a copy of the DCSD Student Wellness Policy, visit www.dcsdk12.org and then click on “Board of Directors,” “Administrative Policies” and then on “A” policies.