At the Aug. 12 MFL MarMac school board meeting, Kayla Koether, a Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative staff member who has been working with the MFL MarMac School District for the past year, presented the school board with an update on the health-oriented goals the district accomplished last year, as well as what it plans to accomplish this year.
The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative works with Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties to help communities make healthy choices, encouraging more physical activity and eating healthy foods, especially in schools.
Koether said her time with MFL MarMac will come to a close at the end of August, but that another AmeriCorps staff member, working in conjunction with the initiative, will be trained to take over her position.
Last school year, Koether said the district met a number of goals, including an increased level of nutrition education in the elementary school, especially at the second grade level. Through that program, high school students tasted different foods with the younger students, including salsa, kiwi, sweet potatoes and salad greens.
“It’s amazing how excited the kids got about food when they were in group settings,” Koether said. “It was actually the high school students who were more negative.”
A salad bar was also made available to sixth through eighth grade students. Koether said she taught students how to use the salad bar, explaining that it is more complicated than simply placing some items on your tray.
MFL MarMac also instituted a peer health group.
For the upcoming school year, Koether said the school garden will be expanded, not only by utilizing more space, but also by getting more students involved.
Students will also participate in Homegrown School Lunch Week, as well as a wellness day.
While wellness participation is high at the elementary and middle school levels, Koether said the district should strive toward a more cohesive wellness team that garners more engagement and participation from the high school.
Koether said $3,550 in grants will go toward the garden, as well as the construction of a learning landscape. The learning landscape is a tire playground with tires buried halfway into the ground, allowing room for students to crawl through them. The tires can also be chalked on, giving teachers the luxury of teaching an outdoor class where kids can be physically active. Teachers will also be able to access special learning landscape lessons that will fit into their subject matter.
“Once the students learn those curriculum-based games, it will be interesting to see if they will play on the tires at recess instead of the other equipment,” Koether said.
By Audrey Posten, www.claytoncountyregister.com, 8/14/13.