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March 22
Cooks at Alaska child care centers prepare healthy meals that kids will love

19.03.14_HKC.jpgMARCH 22, 2019 — Over Spring Break, cooks at child care centers around Alaska came to Anchorage to sharpen their culinary and math skills with help from the Institute of Child Nutrition. They learned best practices and developed skills for providing nutritious meals for young children. 

The Institute trainers included a math teacher and a professional chef. They offered “Culinary Math” as a one-day training and “Healthy Cuisine for Kids” as a two-day training. Both provided classroom and hands-on experiences for learning culinary math, nutrition and healthful cooking methods.

The Institute is a federally-funded national center dedicated to research, education and training for child nutrition programs. Participants who took the training this spring used math and food preparation techniques to produce lots of healthy, tasty dishes designed to appeal to young children. Those dishes included “Tuscan Quinoa Salad,” “Porcupine Sliders,” and a class favorite: “Roasted Fish & Crispy Slaw Wraps.” Destiny Ritter, a food service specialist in Kodiak, learned to make a cheese sauce for “Chić Penne,” a healthier version of macaroni and cheese. 

“The trick is to let the sauce cool before adding the cheese, so it’s not grainy,” Ritter said. 

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) Child Nutrition Programs received a grant to offer the trainings to cooks who work with the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The CACFP provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving day care. It plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making healthy meals more affordable for low-income families.

“Child care center directors have been requesting cooks’ training to assist their staff in understanding and meeting the CACFP meal patterns,” said Ann-Marie Martin, Alaska CACFP program coordinator. “Sometimes cooks come to a center with very little culinary training, so this is an opportunity to gain skill development and resources to provide healthier options for the children in care. DEED is very excited to be able to fill this need by utilizing USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) grant funds.”

Math skills are helpful for adjusting recipes and following the CACFP meal patterns. Isaiah Conley, a cook with the Anchorage Boys & Girls Club, said he enjoyed the math sessions. 

“I learned how to break down recipes, like how many grains are in that snack so we’re following the CACFP rules,” Conley said.

This training helps cooks from early child care centers across Alaska come together in small groups and receive additional support from knowledgeable trainers. Sydney Hinkley, a cook with the Children’s Lunchbox in Anchorage, said the training helps her try new recipes, as well as learn from cooks at other child care centers. 

“It’s a chance to compare notes,” Hinkley said.

“Culinary Math” and “Healthy Cuisine for Kids” will be offered in Alaska six times in the next two years. The DEED grant provides funding to help cooks from 54 communities travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks to participate. For more information about the classes, contact Ann-Marie Martin at (907) 465-8771 or annmarie.martin@alaska.gov​.​


In the photograph above:  Brenda Marquez from Dutch Harbor and Mikal McGlashan from Sand Point prepare “Lentils of the Southwest.”


February 26
Anchorage pediatricians celebrate patients’ participation in the free Healthy Futures Challenge

TCC headshots TSL.jpgFEBRUARY 26, 2019 —For years, our partner Healthy Futures has been recognizing children’s commitment to daily physical activity with monthly prizes. 

Now, a local group of pediatricians is adding another level of recognition for these active Alaska kids. 

The Children’s Clinic, a pediatric clinic in Anchorage since 1970, is encouraging their elementary school-age patients to participate in the free, school-based Healthy Futures Challenge. Patients in participating elementary schools can bring their completed Healthy Futures physical activity log to the clinic, show it to their pediatrician or nurse, and receive a special prize to celebrate that activity. The clinic will even accept the log as a faxed or emailed copy. These Anchorage pediatricians also are opening up the challenge to children who attend schools that are not yet signed up for the Healthy Futures Challenge. The child can download the physical activity log, fill it out for the month and turn it in to the clinic for a prize.

Dr. Janet Shen, one of three pediatricians at The Children’s Clinic, said she thought it was a great idea for doctors to recognize the physical activity their young patients are doing.

“This is exactly what we want you to do,” Shen said. Getting kids moving can encourage the rest of the family to be physically active, too, she said.

“With this growing epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, I think any time we can encourage healthy habits from a young age, hopefully we can play a role in promoting long-term health,” she said. 

“It will be something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

Healthy Futures, a nonprofit program run through the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, offers two physical activity challenges in elementary schools each school year: one in the fall and the second in the spring. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The challenge is free to schools and students. Students who successfully log their physical activity each month of the challenge win Healthy Futures prizes, which have included water bottles, jump ropes, and other prizes that promote activity.The Children's Clinic Wrist Band.jpg

The Children’s Clinic — which cares for about 5,500 patients — now adds a second level of recognition for active children. Patients who completed an activity log for February will receive a glow-in-the-dark wristband that says “I’m an action hero.” This band will go along with the wristbands that Healthy Futures gives to participating students this school year. Future prizes from The Children’s Clinic will include a drawing to play at local gyms, such as rock gyms or trampoline playgrounds.

“I just have a passion for kids to be outside,” Shen said. “I try to tear them away from their screens to get them to be more physically active.”

Children — and their parents — are spending more and more time on their phones, tablets and devices, and this screen time pulls them away from being active, Shen said. Regular physical activity plus adequate sleep and a healthy diet can have benefits beyond physical health, including improved behavior, mental health and performance in the classroom, she said.

The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge continues through March and April this school year. It’s not too late for elementary schools to sign up and participate. This spring, about 150 schools across Alaska have signed up for the challenge. Principals or teachers can sign up their schools for the Healthy Futures Challenge using this simple online database​. If you have questions about the Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures program coordinator, at (907) 360-6331 or alyse@healthyfuturesak.org.


January 30
Alaska students to play all at the same time at a special event in February

PLAAY Day 2018 Blog photo.jpgJANUARY 30, 2019 — Students and teachers at Alaska schools are getting ready for the next PLAAY Day — that day once a year when children complete a half hour of organized physical activity all at the same time in communities across the state.

The first PLAAY Day took place two years ago, and since then hundreds of children in schools from Aniak to Glennallen to Ketchikan have participated. The third annual PLAAY Day is set for Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019. Alaska schools can sign up now using a simple online database.

PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. Our partners, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures program, are running PLAAY Day to help Alaska children get active for good health. 

“This is a shared experienced about really connecting kids in different places,” said Wally Wilson, director of PLAAY events for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Schools have been signing up across Alaska, as well as in other parts of the country like Connecticut and Washington, D.C., Wilson said.

This year, participating children will be doing the physical activities of superheroes, nationally recognized athletes and former presidents. Kids will do the motions of cross country skate skiing, in honor of Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall. They’ll do the motions of a balance beam walk like Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas. They’ll pretend to complete a slap shot like Stanley Cup winning hockey player Scott Gomez. These athletes and leaders are role models for Alaska’s students — putting the emphasis on choosing healthy physical activities. 

“It’s cool to be healthy,” Wilson said. ​

PLAAY Day will begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 21, with students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation leading a room of Anchorage-based children in the fun session of activities. They’ll be demonstrating the activities at the Special Olympics Alaska building in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage. GCI and Denali Media will be broadcasting that demonstration live to participating schools using free videoconferencing technology. That will allow children across Alaska to join along and complete the half hour of physical activity in their own gyms, classrooms, recreation centers and common spaces. All children will be able to participate at their appropriate levels. Physical activities included during PLAAY Day will be able to be modified and adapted to include students of all abilities, said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

Schools and organizations across Alaska will participate in PLAAY Day live by streaming through Facebook and YouTube Live. Schools that sign up for PLAAY Day will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer. Interested schools and groups can register as an entire school, a classroom, a home school, or an organization.

Right after PLAAY Day concludes, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame will run the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 22 and 23, 2019, at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. The theme of the 2019 PLAAY events is “Exercise Leadership.” The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The summit will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health. The keynote speaker this year is Dr. Michael Yogman, a Boston-area pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Yogman recently published an article called “The Power of Play:  A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children.” This article focuses on the importance of play in healthy youth development. 

People in remote locations across Alaska will be able to participate in the summit through videoconferencing. Professional development credits for school district employees, credit hours for nurses, and social work continuing education units (CEUs) will be available to participants. 

Many organizations are partners of PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit. They include Healthy Futures; the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; GCI and Denali Media; Special Olympics Alaska; the Anchorage School District; University of Alaska Anchorage; clinics and hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital at Providence, Alaska Center for Pediatrics, LaTouche Pediatrics, the Children’s Clinic and Alaska Pediatric Therapy; the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; the Play Every Day campaign; Bristol Bay Native Corporation; the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; and businesses, such as Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Moose’s Tooth, the Alaska Club, the Dome and Skinny Raven Sports. 

To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org​

Photograph courtesy of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

January 08
Healthy Futures program extends sign-up period for the Spring 2019 Challenge

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpgJanuary 8, 2019 — Play Every Day’s partner, the Healthy Futures program, is extending the sign-up period for the Spring 2019 Challenge so more elementary schools can participate in the physical activity challenge that runs Feb. 1 through April 30.

Every school year, Healthy Futures runs a fall and spring physical activity challenge that is free for elementary schools and students. During the challenge, students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The Healthy Futures program awards prizes to K-6 students who log their physical activity and turn in those logs at the end of each month. The state’s Play Every Day campaign continues to work with Healthy Futures to support the challenge in elementary schools across Alaska and encourage children to build the healthy habit of daily activity.

The Healthy Futures program typically starts in December — a couple months ahead of time — to sign up schools for the Spring Challenge. This year, however, schools in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough were closed in early December so school district staff could assess damage from the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake and make repairs as needed. Healthy Futures started registering schools for the Spring Challenge in December, but decided to extend registration this month so more schools could participate. 

"We wanted to be as supportive and accommodating as possible with teachers and schools dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake,” said Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director. “Extending the deadline hopefully gives our partners and teachers time to focus on recovery before looking ahead to the Spring Challenge."

As of this week, more than 120 elementary schools have signed up for the Spring 2019 Challenge. During a typical challenge, between 150 to 200 elementary schools across the state sign up to participate. You can go online to see if your school is already signed up for the Spring Challenge. If your school isn’t signed up yet, the principal or a teacher at the school can sign up for free using this simple online database

If you have questions about signing up for the Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures program coordinator, at (907) 360-6331 or alyse@healthyfuturesak.org.


December 18
It’s cold, it’s dark, but Utqiaġvik kids can still play every day

Fred Ipalook Elementary Playground in Utqiagvik.jpgThe school day had started in Utqiaġvik, and the thermometer read minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It had been in the negative degrees during the entire school week, but that’s typical in December in the northernmost Alaska — and U.S. — community with about 4,500 residents. The day stayed dark and then dim from morning until night. The sun doesn’t rise midwinter this far north of the Arctic Circle. 

And yet, the youngest kids in Utqiaġvik could still play every day. That’s because they attend a school that has done something unique. Inside its heated school building, Fred Ipalook Elementary has an entire school playground that most of us are used to seeing outdoors instead. The playground includes jungle gyms, slides, ladders, basketball hoops and open space. The elementary students in Utqiaġvik love to use the indoor playground, said Monica Lugo, physical education teacher at Fred Ipalook Elementary. It’s open to them every day of the school year during normal recess time, extra recess sessions and as a reward for demonstrating good behavior at school. 

“There really is no excuse for them to get no activity,” Lugo said. 

Having playgrounds that make it possible to play in any weather helps Alaska children meet the national Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published updated guidelines in November 2018, but the recommendation for school-age children remained the same: For the best health, these children should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Kids can get that activity through recess, physical education class, and activities before and after school.

Lugo said Fred Ipalook Elementary does have outdoor playgrounds to support physical activity, but they aren’t used as much as the indoor playground during cold, snowy months. Sometimes the snow is piled so high that the slide can’t be used. Other times, students don’t bring the right clothing to play in below zero temperatures. 

“Not all the kids bring the gear that’s heavy enough, or they forget gloves or hats,” Lugo said. 

Other Alaska communities face different types of weather challenges when it comes to playing outside. Petersburg in Southeast Alaska is one example. The community of about 3,000 residents has many rainy days. The rain doesn't stop Stedman Elementary students from playing outside, however, because the outside playground has a roof that covers basketball hoops, four square games and other areas for play.

"We don't hold kids in for rain," said Ginger Evens, wellness team member and teacher for the Petersburg School District.

"Anybody can play, anywhere.”

Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children. 


December 10
New national guidelines show physical, mental, even immediate benefits from regular activity

140412 Play Every Day-1952 web.jpgDo you want to prevent cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, injuries and unhealthy weight gain? Do you want to sleep better and improve your ability to think, reason and remember? If you do, move more and sit less. 

That’s the recommendation shared in the new Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published in November 2018.

“Regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health,” wrote Alex M. Azar II, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the guidelines. “…The scientific evidence continues to build — physical activity is linked with even more positive health outcomes than we previously thought. And, even better, benefits can start accumulating with small amounts of, and immediately after doing, physical activity.”

Physical activity can improve physical and mental health, as well as academics. For children in elementary and middle school, the guidelines say that regular activity improves memory, attention and performance in the classroom. Activity improves mental health by reducing children’s and adults’ risk of depression. For older adults, regular activity can cut the risk of falling and suffering injuries from falls. Just one session of physical activity can reduce your anxiety and even improve your sleep that night.

While the guidelines recommend that adults move at least 150 minutes a week and school-age children move 60 minutes a day, that might be more than you and your family can do right now.

“Do what you can,” the guidelines state. “Even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits.”

While regular activity can improve health in many ways and lower the risk for common chronic diseases that last a lifetime, most Alaska adults, youth and children do not meet the recommendations for activity. Nearly 4 out of 5 Alaska adults and teenagers don’t get enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity during the week. 

Looking for a quick summary of the guidelines? Read the Top 10 Things to Know online. The recently updated Physical Activity Guidelines share new recommendations supported by science.

Immediate benefits for how people feel, function and sleep

According to the guidelines, just one session of physical activity can reduce anxiety, improve memory, lower blood pressure and improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. The guidelines confirm that activity can improve quality of sleep for adults. It can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and can increase the amount of time in deep sleep. It also can cut down on daytime sleepiness. 

Risks of not being physically active

For the best health, adults need to move more. Increased time in low-levels of activity — like sitting, lying down, or watching TV or some other type of digital screen —  is linked with increased risk for death, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer, the guidelines state. 

For the most health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes (1 ¼ hours) of vigorous activity each week. Adults should do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Moderate activity includes anything that gets your heart beating faster, such as biking, hiking, recreational swimming or raking the yard. Jogging, running, carrying heavy groceries or shoveling snow are examples of vigorous activities. 

Importance of encouraging physical activity early in life

Parents and caregivers should help children ages 3–5 be active throughout the day. The guidelines state this regular activity will improve their growth, development and bone strength, and help them grow up at a healthy weight. 

The guidelines continue to recommend that older children ages 6–17 play every day for 60 minutes or more. This should include a mix of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. 

Short bursts of activity bring benefits

The new guidelines stress that any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. The previous edition of the guidelines stated that only 10-minute sessions of activity counted toward meeting the guidelines. The new edition removes this requirement and encourages people to move more frequently throughout the entire day.

For more information about the importance of physical activity, visit the Active People, Healthy Nation website.

November 13
Schools stop serving chocolate milk to cut back on sugar

DSC_0561_web.jpgSchool food service directors from the southeast to the northernmost parts of Alaska made the decision to serve only plain white milk during lunch and breakfast to cut back on the amount of sugar children drink during the school day. 

In 2011, Carlee Johnson became the food service director at the Petersburg School District in Southeast Alaska. She learned that the children in Petersburg schools were offered chocolate milk every day of the week at school. Flavored milk was the most popular choice among the students, she said. Johnson started making changes to improve the availability of healthier food and drink options in Petersburg schools. Within months of her arrival at the district, Johnson’s food service program stopped ordering the chocolate milk.

“I completely took it out,” she said. 

Geno Ceccarelli, food service coordinator, made the decision for the North Slope Borough School District when he started there five years ago. When he arrived, children could choose a chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk on Fridays. Ceccarelli said the flavored milk was high in sugar.

“So I eliminated it,” he said.

Johnson and Ceccarelli said some children and families were upset when the food service programs removed the chocolate milk from schools, but the food service directors explained the health reasons for making the change. When Petersburg students asked why they could no longer have chocolate milk, Johnson told them flavored milk is meant to be a treat offered only occasionally — “not like an everyday item.”

Both school districts participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, which provide low-cost or free meals to millions of eligible children nationwide during the school day. Participation in the program requires the schools to provide at least two options of milk for lunch, but those options do not need to include chocolate or flavored milk. The options can look like they do in North Slope and Petersburg, where they include two types of plain white milk: one low-fat and one fat-free. 

Cutting out chocolate and flavored milk reduces added sugar served to children at school. An 8-ounce container of fat-free chocolate milk offered at school can have about 3 teaspoons of added sugar. The sugar that children drink plus the sugar that they eat can quickly take kids over the recommended daily limit of added sugar for the best health

Added sugar wasn’t the only concern in the chocolate milk. Flavored milk also can have added salt, Johnson and Ceccarelli said. Added salt is something both are trying to reduce in the foods and drinks they serve to children in school. 

Switching to only white milk was just one change Johnson and Ceccarelli made at their school districts to make meals healthier for children. Petersburg schools added salad bars and stopped serving some processed foods, like chicken nuggets. Ceccarelli cut the added sugar in foods by using pureed carrots, blueberries and applesauce as sweeteners. He switched white rice to brown rice and reduced added salt by switching to dried herbs to season foods. 

“Trying to do better for the kids — that’s my goal,” he said. “Less sugar, less sodium, more flavors, whole grains.”

Ceccarelli and Johnson also encourage students to drink water, and both of their school districts have made water more available. Schools in Utqiaġvik, formerly called Barrow, supply pitchers of water for the children at lunch. Schools in North Slope villages often set out coolers of water, Ceccarelli said.

Water became more available in all Petersburg schools when the district replaced older water fountains with water bottle filling stations in the elementary, middle and high schools, as well as in the gym area. Then, district staff gave all students their own water bottles so they could drink water in class and throughout the day. The food service staff in Petersburg schools occasionally make water more appealing in the cafeteria, too, by providing sliced lemons or limes to flavor the water.

Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.


October 29
Southeast Island Enriching Community with Fresh Produce

​The Southeast Island School District (SISD)​ faces a few challenges when it comes to getting fresh fruits and vegetables. Its eight schools are scattered around several islands, with many accessible only by float plane. Produce travels long distances on a barge from Seattle, making several stops before reaching a Southeast Island schoSoutheast Island School District greenhouse 2018.jpgol. Most vegetables don’t grow well in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest.

Despite the odds, Southeast Island students, teachers and communities are working together to provide their own freshly grown produce for their school lunch program. The district’s school garden program began in 2014, with a greenhouse funded by an Alaska Workforce Development Grant. When Thorne Bay School began using a wood-fired boiler, they funneled some of the heat to the greenhouse to help grow foods year-round. An indoor hydroponic system grew lettuce that was used for school lunches. 

Four years later, the district has six greenhouses, one orchard, and over 100 berry bushes. Chickens and rabbits freely roam the orchards. Three schools now use an aquaponics system, where fish provide nutrients to the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. 

Fresh salad bars with locally grown produce are on the menu every day. Students also have access to the greenhouses and will eat fresh tomatoes as a snack. 

“Students were happy to eat salad when they realized they could pluck leaves from the plants themselves,” said Megan Fitzpatrick, a teacher in the district’s Farm to School program and the district's greenhouse manager. "It’s rewarding to hear kids go from asking ‘That’s what a cucumber plant looks like?’ to eating salad every day at school.” 

Along with the fresh produce, the school gardens add other benefits. The Southeast Island School District provides fruits and vegetables for local farmers markets. School curriculum includes the garden as well. For example, photosynthesis is taught in the greenhouse, and kids learn geometry by measuring garden beds, how much soil to fill them with, and how many plants can be added to each bed. The garden also has taught students job skills in agriculture. 

This past summer, the school district received a national Farm to School grant that will help expand the successful program. The district’s future plans include providing training for safe-handling of local produce to food service workers in all eight schools, reclaiming 80 percent of food waste by separating garbage from compostable materials, making produce available in all eight schools’ cafeterias three times a week, and using surveys to show students’ awareness of a healthy diet. 

The school district’s Farm to School program is challenging and a continual learning curve. It’s difficult to fit time in the daily class schedule that is solely dedicated to the garden. Yet, those involved in the program feel there’s nothing more rewarding than working with children and teaching them about food.

“If there’s anything that unites all walks of life, it’s food and it brings all people together,” said Fitzpatrick. “We all have food in common.”

October is national Farm to School month. To learn more about Farm to School in Alaska, visit http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_FTS.htm

Photograph courtesy of the Southeast Island School District


October 23
Sitka schools serve healthy, locally caught fish on Wednesdays

Sitka Salmon burgers 2018.jpegIt’s Wednesday, so children attending elementary schools in Sitka will have fish sandwiches made with Alaska pollock, peas and carrots for lunch. 

That’s because the Sitka School District has a special program that serves locally harvested fish during hot lunch once a week — on Wednesdays — at all of its schools. Watch this video to see how the program works in the Sitka School District. 

Sitka, an island community of about 9,000 residents in Southeast Alaska, is known for its local wild salmon. Every year, Sitka hosts a health summit. Community members pick goals to improve the health of their residents. Serving locally caught wild salmon and fish in schools became the goal at the 2010 summit. This program is now called Fish to Schools, and it relies on several partnerships with the Sitka Conservation Society and local fishermen.

Fish like wild salmon have health benefits. Fish provides: 

"It's just really good for you, while tasting so good," said Eric Jordan, a Sitka fisherman who donates some of his catch to the program.

The school chefs at Sitka School District provide the children with a lot of variety when serving fish at lunch. They prepare baked salmon, fish nuggets, sweet and sour rockfish, salmon chowder and more. 

“Now we’re doing homemade fish nuggets, our version of fish and chips, which is like the rockfish or the halibut when we have that. We take it, roll it in corn starch, dip it in a fat-free ranch, roll it in some herbed Panko (bread crumbs), and it’s baked. And it retains the moisture and the flavor and the seasonings,” said Jo Michalski, executive chef for the Sitka School District.

Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies​ schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.


October 09
Alaska schools find ways to meet recommendations for physical education

_DSC9681.jpgAlaska parents may think their children get a physical education class as often as they did growing up. In 2017, however, only 1 out of 5 Alaska high school students attended daily physical education classes.

Experts from SHAPE America and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) call for elementary schools to provide 150 minutes of physical education each week. Not all elementary schools in Alaska provide that much. Some school districts and schools within districts, however, are making regular physical education classes a priority and seeing the benefits
 
Providing high-quality physical education (PE) in schools is not the same thing as providing physical activity. Time for physical activity, however, is a great way to practice what’s learned in PE classes and can help Alaska children grow up at a healthy weight. Recess is one example of physical activity time.
 

Physical education:

  • teaches fundamental skills in movement, like throwing and catching a ball
  • improves children’s motor skills
  • builds a foundation for lifelong physical fitness habits, and
  • delivers academic benefits, including the possibility of improving children’s behavior in the classroom, grades and test scores.
 
Meeting recommendations in Alaska schools
 
Elementary schools in two different Alaska school districts have found their own ways to meet the recommendations for PE each week. In the Petersburg School District, that means providing PE classes four days each week and exceeding the 150 minutes of recommended PE time by the end of the school week. At Seward Elementary School, that means PE class all five days of the school week, every week, for children in grades 3-5.
 
Petersburg School District
 
At Stedman Elementary School, students in grades K-5 alternate between a week of gym class and a week of swim class, said Ginger Evens, teacher and wellness team member in the district. Students have 40 minutes of PE each day for four days during the school week, along with a minimum of 20 minutes of recess each day.
 
Daily physical activity and PE have become part of the school culture in Petersburg, Evens said.
 
“I believe Petersburg prioritizes meeting the national standards for PE time for children because of the overall benefits for their personal well-being, as well as for academic performance,” she said. “In the past, parents and community members have gone to school board meetings when there has been talk of cutting the swim program or reducing PE time and argued for keeping both programs.”
 
Petersburg’s commitment to PE also delivers the benefit of learning life-saving swimming skills in a coastal community. Students learn how to properly wear a life jacket, put on a survival suit and use cold water survival skills that are essential for a fishing community, Evens said.
 
Seward Elementary School in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
 
The teachers and principal at Seward Elementary School had been investigating strategies for improvements at school. They read research showing the connection between more active time in PE classes and recess and improvements in students’ learning and behavior. 
 
In 2005, the staff changed the class schedule so all students in grade 3–5 could get 30 minutes of PE class every day, said Mark Fraad, the school’s sole PE teacher. That enabled the elementary school to reach the recommended 150 minutes of PE time each school week. The change to PE time, however, required changes in other areas, too. The school staff agreed to start having students eat lunch in classrooms so the gym was open for more PE classes all day.
 
Students at Seward Elementary seek out activity time as a reward, Fraad said. When they meet a goal, students ask for more PE time instead of treats or a food-related party.
 
“We’re offering a healthy alternative to the pizza party,” he said.
 
School staff noticed improved student performance and behavior after adding more physical education time. During the school year following the addition of PE classes, the percent of students skilled in math and reading increased in grades 3–5.
 
Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.

 
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