School Spotlight: St. Joseph Community School, New Hampton

Posted: August 29, 2012
School Spotlight:  St. Joseph Community School, New Hampton

By Julie Friedhof, Media Specialist, St. Joseph School

NEW HAMPTON Childhood obesity has steadily been on the rise across the United States. A recent study of Iowa elementary school children found 37 percent were either overweight or obese.  Schools in northeast Iowa are working to reverse this trend by improving the food and fitness environments.

They are receiving assistance of the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) one of nine national sites funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community Program. St. Joseph Community School in New Hampton is participating in this initiative.

Recently, the school completed a School Wellness Action Plan integrating two successful national programs Farm to School and Safe Routes to School. In its action plan, St. Joseph Community School outlined food and fitness activities and goals for students, staff and broader communities for the 2012-2013 school year.

These goals included improving health and nutrition education in classrooms, increasing access to healthy, local foods in the cafeteria, and expanding student involvement with the school garden project.

A major goal in this year's plan was expanding the school garden project. Last year the school had a small garden near Mercy Medical Center. This year the size of the hospital garden was increased and a raised garden was constructed near the Holy Family Parish Center.

Radishes, tomatoes (yellow pear, tommy toe, red velvet,lemon drop, ruby cluster, giant pink beefsteak), peppers (sweet chocolate, feher ozon, jalapeno and mixed bell), onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, and zinnias were planted in the raised gardens. The hospital garden has produced watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins and sweet corn. Many of the seeds that were planted were heirloom seeds acquired from Seed Savers in Decorah.

During the summer, St. Joseph families volunteered their time and gardening skills to weed and water the garden. The produce yielded from the garden is being used in the school lunch program as well as in classroom instruction and hands-on-cooking activities. Some students are experiencing certain fruits and vegetables for the first time.

Besides creating healthier options at school meals, the school is also increasing opportunities for student physical activity. Each month students in grades K-4 can participate in an after-school fitness activity and once a month there is an all school fitness activity (classroom tug of war, Panther stations, running through the halls).

St. Joseph Community School is fostering environments where students can work and play. Good nutrition and physical activity improve student health and academic performance, and decrease behavioral problems. Adult members of the St. Joseph Wellness Team are: Amy Kloberdanz, Susie Klunder, Trevor Rockwell, Beth Wright, and Father Carl Schmitt. Melanie Stewart is the FFI Resource Contact.

Student Wellness Team members are: Kayla Gilbert, Adam Laures, Ryan Gorman, Noah Fye, Jason Herold, Alison McDonald, Taylor Bearman, and Callie Speltz. New fifth grade members will be selected in the near future.

View the Iowa Food and Fitness Calendar