With the unstable economy and the fast pace of everyday life, it’s important to keep healthy in order to maintain an active life, especially for children.
A healthy lifestyle can take time and work and the staff and parents at Ponoka Elementary School are taking action to ensure that the students are receiving the right foods.
The school has taken on the Growing Healthy Albertans program which is a $10,000 grant applied through Alberta Healthy School Community Wellness Fund.
Karie Ackermann, one of the parents, applied for the grant for the school because she wanted to make a difference in the school by promoting healthy eating habits. She believes that providing nutritious foods in school benefits students now as well as later in life.
“The mandate for Growing Healthy Albertans is to create positive change in nutrition that is free from judgement in which all children can develop healthy eating habits and an active living plan that will last a lifetime,” said Ackermann.
Ackermann says that research has shown that 31 per cent of elementary school students do not start their day with a good breakfast and the number grows to 62 per cent by the time they hit middle school.
Only one out of five children get the necessary daily serving of fruits and vegetables and the prevalence of obesity in Canadian children has doubled in the past 20 years.
Not eating well can result in obesity, physical and emotional issues, increases Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression.
“If we show children that healthy eating is fun and delicious these numbers will change,” said Ackermann. “Something needs to be done and we can not ignore that there needs to be more education and awareness on this subject.”
The program is for Grades 1 through 5 and includes 330 students. Parents and volunteers come and prepare smoothies and healthy snacks and deliver them to the classrooms. The program will run up until June and children collect stamps for healthy eating and being active.
“It is a fun way for students to keep track of their progress, as well as a good way to evaluate the program,” said Ackermann.
The program is also environmentally friendly as the smoothie cups, etc can degrade in a landfill in about 180 days.
Leslie Crawford, principal, is pleased with the program and believes that it makes a positive different in the lives of the students.
“There is a direct correlation between learning and health/nutrition, so the more we can have our students prepared and ready for learning, the better,” said Crawford. “Students have responded very well to the program, and we’re hopeful that these healthy eating habits will be established or reinforced at an early age for lifelong benefits.”
Although the program ends in June, Ackermann is in the process of applying for another one to enhance what has been started in the school.