Crestwood Elementary is creating a school environment that supports healthy behaviors and aims to empower students through nutrition education, school meals, and engagement of staff, parents, and the community through a project with the Iowa Department of Education.
Crestwood Elementary applied to be part of the Healthy Schools – Healthy Students project and was selected as one of the 20 elementary schools across the state to participate. The project includes monthly MyPlate nutrition education lessons and food tastings in the 4th grade classrooms led by Sandy Hagen, Regional Health Services Dietitian; Cafeteria Coaching, where older students eat school lunch with 4th grade students to serve as role models for healthy choices; school nutrition training sessions and changes to the lunchroom environment.
Cafeteria Coach Audrey Grinhaug gives an ‘I tried it! sticker to Katrina Flugum
as a reward for trying a food unfamiliar to her at school lunch.
Crestwood Director of Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator Cheryl Dickman said, “We’ve been doing cafeteria coaching through the Food & Fitness Initiative. The cafeteria coaches are high school students who help introduce foods to children like broccoli, sweet potato criss-cuts; any foods that may be new to them. The cafeteria coaches went through training, and the children like teaming with the older kids; they are often more willing to try new foods.”
Dickman said the cooks at Crestwood Elementary/Junior High will often mix foods potentially new to children with foods they know they will eat, so that everything won’t be unfamiliar to the children.
“The cafeteria coaches will introduce the children to the newer foods, and given them tidbits about their nutrition value,” Dickman said. “If they taste the new food, they get an ‘I tried it’ sticker. The children love the stickers, so that’s a big incentive for them. Many times, the children actually like the new foods. We’ve been doing cross-age training through Food & Fitness for seven or eight years.”
Dickman said another aspect of the project is Regional Health Services of Howard County Dietitian Sandy Hagen visiting fourth-grade classrooms once per month.
“Sandy Hagen has a lesson plan every month that she brings into the fourth grade classrooms,” Dickman said.
The project is funded by a USDA Team Nutrition Grant, administered by the Iowa Department of Education. The grant activities include technical assistance and training for school nutrition staff, nutrition education for students and caregivers, and creation of a school environment that supports healthful behaviors. The University of Iowa is leading the evaluation that includes process evaluation to assess program implementation and effectiveness as well as outcome evaluation.
“The Healthy Schools – Healthy Students is a multi-component intervention that includes nutrition messages that are delivered through Team Nutrition’s communication channels to reach children where they live, learn and play,” states Carrie Scheidel, Team Nutrition Director at the Iowa Department of Education.”