Nutritionists help school meet health challenge

Linda Benedict  |  12/5/2013 7:53:32 PM

Tobie Blanchard

Barbe Elementary School in Lake Charles received a gold award of distinction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge in 2013. The award recognizes schools that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

Shatonia McCarty, an LSU AgCenter nutrition agent, and Carol Sensley, with the Southern University Agricultural Center, worked with Barbe to meet the challenge. Armed with the AgCenter’s Smart Choices curriculum, they helped students, parents and faculty learn how to improve their eating habits.

“I am trying to help them live a healthier lifestyle and improve the quality of their lives,” McCarty said.

McCarty visits the school monthly and attends nutrition events at the school for parents. The school incorporates Smart Bodies into its lessons and has had the Body Walk exhibit at the school.

McCarty also used pedometers to get the students, parents and faculty to move more. Sensley helped teach the students different exercises.

Barbe Elementary School Assistant Principal Sharon Ruffin-Hardy said it was an honor for the school to be recognized, but they could not have reached this goal without their partnership with the AgCenter.

“It is because we had all these components in place that we received this award,” Ruffin-Hardy said.

The HealthierUS Schools Challenge identifies three goals schools have to meet to receive recognition – provide nutrition education, provide students with physical education and opportunity for physical activity, and improve the quality of the food served.

To accomplish the last goal, Ruffin- Hardy said they removed fried foods and added more whole grains to their menus and now offer more fruits and vegetables.

“Initially they had to get used to it,” Ruffin-Hardy said of the student’s reaction to the new lunch menu. “But now they like the variety.”

Tobie Blanchard is a writer with LSU AgCenter Communications

(This article was published in the fall 2013 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

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