Looking to pick up a skinny caramel latte at the Upbeat Cafe at Colony High School? It’s going to come with calorie-free flavoring.
Want to grab a quick slice of pizza from the Snack Shack run by the high school’s activities program? Now it’s got a tasty whole wheat crust. You might also notice that the portion size is a bit smaller — 10 slices per pie this year compared to the 8 slices they sold before.
These menu changes are a part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District implementation of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards. These national standards are issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Starting in the 2014-15 school year, the Smart Snacks nutrition standards require that “competitive foods” — snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, á la carte lines and fundraising efforts during the school day — are nutritious and promote health.
While serving healthy foods to students during the school day makes sense, it can be challenging to put these standards into action. Many of these stores are run by volunteer clubs and organizations, rather than a school nutrition specialist. Detailed nutrition standards can look overwhelming to volunteers if they don’t get the necessary support.
Rather than trying to navigate the new standards, some districts chose to unplug vending machines and shutter school stores during the school day, only opening for evening sporting events (foods sold more than a half an hour after the school day ends are not required to meet the Smart Snacks nutrition standards). Unfortunately, the clubs and groups running the stores lose that source of revenue when there are many healthy choices they could be selling.
The Mat-Su Borough School District has found a way to meet those standards, continue offering foods and drinks during the school day, and bring in revenue. Rachel Kroon, member of the district’s wellness team, worked with school stores, cafés and coffee shops throughout the district to meet nutrition standards.
“We made individual school site visits to check their current menus and let them sample some Smart Snack-compliant items,” she said. "We delivered a folder with all the Smart Snack Guidelines and gave them a list of snack items they could buy from local stores and Amazon. Then we followed up with site-specific recommendations to the clubs and groups running the stores.”
Thinking about making a change at your school? Here are some tips for a Smart Snacks makeover:
• Share the Guide to Smart Snacks in Schools with anyone who manages a school store or snack bar, coordinates food-based fundraisers during the school day, or sells food on campus outside of the School Breakfast and Lunch Program.
• Check current snacks and beverage inventories using the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Product Calculator. Use the Beverage Inventory and Food Inventory worksheets to help you document and stay organized.
• Browse for compliant products using the Smart Food Planner or work with your school food service to order Smart Snacks-compliant foods through their vendors.
• Consider working with your school food service program to prepare Smart Snacks-compliant foods like muffins, pizzas, sandwiches, or salads for sale in a school store.
• Involve students in taste-testing new options.
• Use Smarter Lunchroom strategies, such as placing healthier items at the front of the counter; using signs withfun, descriptive names to make them visible and attractive; and pricing healthier items at a lower cost than less healthy items.
• Make sure the Smart Snacks standards are included in your district’s required school wellness policy.
One of the best ways to help young Alaskans grow up at a healthy weight is to pass and implement a strong school wellness policy. Evidence of the importance of a strong school wellness policy
(also known as a student nutrition and physical activity policy) is so clear that the federal government requires that every school district receiving funds for school breakfast or lunch have a policy. Alaska school surveys indicate a clear relationship between implementing Smart Snacks nutrition standards and the declining availability of candy and salty snacks in Alaska schools
For more information about Smart Snacks in School or school wellness policies, contact Lauren Kelsey, Obesity Prevention School Partnership Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photograph courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough School District
Each year, the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education awards its Inclusive Practice Award to one or more educators who work to ensure students experiencing disabilities have the opportunity to be included in school activities. Nominations for the award are made by parents, students and educators to recognize the outstanding efforts of those around the state who provide positive learning environments for students experiencing disabilities and their peers.
The 2017 winner of the Inclusive Practice Award is the Service High School Partners Club in Anchorage. The Service High School Partners Club, created in 2001, is made up of 30 students with intellectual disabilities, eight staff members, 72 peer teachers, and 100 partners who work together on educational goals, life skills activities, and community inclusion. Led by life skills and special education teacher Adam Ahonen, the Partners Club works to develop activities that both promote awareness and inclusion of all students.
The Partners Club has a coffee shop and a Special Olympics group, and also works with multiple sports teams. Observers and participants say the Partners Club has encouraged a school culture at Service High where students with disabilities are actively included in school assemblies, drama productions, choir, prom and dances, sporting events, and after school activities.
Ahonen says the club also participates in community events, such as entering the Fur Rondy snow sculpting competition. This spring, he is excited about the chance for Partners Club members to participate in track and field.
“Alaska is the first state to have a unified sporting event, involving both special education and regular curriculum students, that is recognized and sanctioned by the state’s school activities organization,” he said. “That’s exciting. The most important part of this for me is seeing that Partners Club is a catalyst for social inclusion and enhancing the overall community in our schools.”
Rachel Robinson, a Partners Club member with Down syndrome, said that she loves the activities she gets to take part in, including floor hockey, bowling, skiing, basketball and cheerleading.
“I was the captain for cheerleading for hockey,” she said.
Service High School also offers a related elective class in which students in the general education population can sign up to act as peer teachers for students experiencing disabilities in the life skills program.
Erica Christopherson is one of those peer teachers. She accompanies Rachel and her classmates experiencing disabilities while they carry out basic jobs around school — washing dishes in the cafeteria or shredding papers in the office — and guides them while they complete their daily journal entries.
Although Christopherson works with the Partners Club for school credit, she also spends a lot of her own time there, simply because she enjoys it.
“Mr. A’s room is always open and welcoming,” she said. “I’m in here almost every day at lunch, just hanging out with the students and the other peer teachers. It’s a lot of fun.”
In 2015, Play Every Day created a video public service announcement focused on the importance of daily physical activity for children of all abilities. Congratulations to the Partners Club and other nominees for the 2017 Inclusive Practice Award for putting that goal into action.
Below is the complete list of nominees for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education 2017 Inclusive Practice Award. Congratulations to all nominees for their important work educating and supporting Alaska children of all abilities.
• Monique Christiansen: Intensive Needs Program, Palmer Junior Middle School, Palmer
• Deb Evensen: FASD educator and consultant, Homer
• Gail Greenhalagh: Alaska Transition Outcomes Project (ATOP) Coordinator, SERRC, Juneau
• Jennifer Hilder and Pam Penrose: Teachers and mentors, Craig Elementary and Craig Middle School, Craig
• Hope School Team: Patricia Truesdell, Sandra Barron, Diane Olthuis, Eugene, Moseley, and Sara Fortin, Hope
• Pauline Johnson: Paraprofessional, Angoon Elementary, Angoon
• Lisa Kelzenberg: Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, Eagle River High School, Eagle River
• Robyn Meyer: Pre-school teacher, Northwood ABC Elementary, Anchorage
• Nikolaevsk School Instructional Team: Robanne Stading, Jared Copeland, Kelli Hickman, Steve Klaich, Heather Pancratz, Krista Parrett, Michael Sellers, and Jeri Trail, Nikolaevsk
• Paul Banks Elementary Special Education Department: Ray Archuleta, Stephanie Fain, Melissa Gersdorf, Mindy Hunter, Monica Glenn, Donna Sander, Amy Sundheim, Melissa Arno, Vicki Berney, Daniel Bunker, Bobby Copeland-McKinney, Luke Eckert, Anna Germundson, Noreen O’Brien-Dugan, Jennifer Poss, Katy Rice, and Kristi Wickstrom, Homer
• Katherine Pittman: Special Education teacher, Glacier Valley Elementary, Juneau
• Amanda Rugg: Structured Learning Classroom teacher, Bowman Elementary, Anchorage
• Sally Stockhausen: Teacher and team leader, Kayhi High School, Ketchikan
• Tri-Valley School Team: JoHanna Sesito, Bonny Hamm and Angelica Hayes, Ivana Haverlikova, Natile Brandt, Erinn Martin, Jennifer Hancock, Sarah Walker, Jody Stamps and Danielle Talerico, Healy
• Christine Zelinsky: Department Chair and Brandy Jones, Steven Odom, Tracie Ashman, and Anne Paley, Dimond High School, Anchorage
For the best health, youth need 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but only a fraction of youth meet that target. For example, in 2015, only one in five Alaska high school students got 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
For good health, even one sugary drink a day is too much, but almost half of Alaska youth say they drank at least one sugary drink — such as a soda or sports drink — every single day.
A lack of daily activity and daily consumption of sugary drinks can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Today, too many Alaska high school students are overweight or obese.
We know all of this about Alaska teens because, like most other states, Alaska participates in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The YRBS is a paper and pencil survey of Alaska students in public traditional and alternative high schools. Alternative schools teach students who face higher risks and benefit from a non-traditional school setting. The voluntary, anonymous survey is a joint project between the Alaska Departments of Health and Social Services and Education and Early Development, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school districts, and staff.
The YRBS collects information about Alaska teens, including their behaviors that affect health. Students across the state complete the YRBS in odd-numbered years, with the 2017 YRBS taking place right now in high schools from Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to Ketchikan. About 7,000 high school students from about 30 school districts participate in the survey every other year.
“Many different organizations rely on the YRBS, including state programs, school districts, tribal organizations, and statewide and community coalitions,” said Kate Oliver, statewide coordinator for the Alaska YRBS Program. “These organizations use YRBS results for needs assessments, to design and evaluate programs, and to apply for grant funding that supports projects to improve the health and wellness of Alaska youth.”
The statewide YRBS results focus on the health and risk behaviors of both traditional and alternative high school students in Alaska. In addition, many school districts choose to conduct their own YRBS to give them information about their districts’ students. Alaska results can be compared with national YRBS data to better understand how Alaska’s doing, and historical data from the YRBS can be used to assess the risk behaviors of Alaska teens over time.
In 2015, YRBS results revealed important information about the physical activity level, time spent in front of computers and televisions, sugary drink consumption, and body weights of Alaska teens.
In 2015, 21% of Alaska traditional high school students got the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and even fewer (16%) Alaska alternative high school students met this mark. Among both groups, a higher percentage of males than females were physically active every day. Compared to U.S. traditional high school students, fewer Alaska students met the 60-minutes-a-day target. There hasn’t been a significant change in daily physical activity in over five years.
In 2015, one in three Alaska teens (traditional and alternative high school students) spent three or more hours playing video and computer games or using a computer for something other than school work on an average school day. Compared to the United States, fewer Alaska teens spend as much time in front of a screen, but Alaska is still seeing a concerning trend. Since 2007, the percentage of traditional high school students using these devices for three hours or more every day has increased significantly.
Sugary Drink Consumption
Forty-six percent of traditional high school students consumed at least one sugary drink, such as a soda or sports drink, every day in 2015. Over half (55%) of Alaska alternative high school students consumed at least one sugary drink each day.
Overweight and Obesity
In 2015, 17% of traditional high school students were overweight and 14% were obese, which was similar to national YRBS results. However, a significantly higher percentage of Alaska alternative high school students were obese (23%), as compared to traditional high school students.
Are you interested in the results of the 2017 Alaska YRBS? Watch for a preliminary report in the winter of 2017. A full 2017 YRBS report will be published in 2018. If you’d like to learn more about the Alaska YRBS, visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/yrbs/yrbs.aspx
Making small shifts in our food choices can add up over time. This year's theme for National Nutrition Month® in March inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits – one forkful at a time. So whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, Put Your Best Fork Forward to help find your healthy eating style.
“Healthy eating should be enjoyable and ‘doable’ for your entire life”, says Diane Peck, registered dietitian nutritionist with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Focus on eating healthy foods that you like and being active to help stay healthy and manage your weight.”
Think nutrient-rich, rather than "good" or "bad" foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, and lower in calories. Here are a few tips for making smart food choices:
• Choose healthy drinks. Drink water or low-fat milk, instead of sugary drinks. For variety, add fresh or frozen fruit to a glass or pitcher of cold water, try unsweetened hot or cold caffeine-free tea, or add a splash of 100% fruit juice to club soda or seltzer water.
• Eat more fruits and vegetables. All forms of fruits and vegetables provide healthful benefits – fresh, frozen, canned and dried. Traditional foods – such as berries, sourdock, and beach greens – are especially high in nutrients.
• Focus on variety. Choose a variety of healthful foods in all food groups to help reduce the risk of preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains, such as oats and 100% whole wheat bread; healthy proteins, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.
• Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and may contribute to overall good health. Alaskans should select foods that are high in vitamin D, such as Alaska salmon and vitamin D fortified non- or low-fat milk, and should talk with their health care providers about vitamin D and the risks and benefits of supplementation.
• Play every day. Choose activities that you enjoy and want to do each day. Remember, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Find fun activities that get the whole family moving, like sledding or going for a walk.
ChooseMyPlate.gov has resources to help you achieve your healthy eating goals this month, and all year long.
National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing good eating and physical activity habits. Play games, download tip sheets, view recipe videos and more at http://sm.eatright.org/NNMinfo.
Young children across Alaska are learning how to become healthy eaters and active kids by doing what comes naturally to them — looking at books and playing with toys.
Child care providers play an important role in helping to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits in young children. The Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program worked with the national Let's Move initiative and Thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, to provide training and resources to child care centers and day care homes to support healthy eating and physical activity habits. These habits include providing water to thirsty children, rather than sugary drinks, and increasing time spent in active play.
“Our goal is to help the youngest Alaskans grow up at a healthy weight,” said Diane Peck with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Child care programs can provide a healthy environment for children to eat, play, grow, and develop healthy habits for life.”
To help make these changes fun for kids, the program provides resources that encourage healthy eating and active play, such as age-appropriate physical activity equipment, fruit and vegetable food models, and children’s books highlighting healthy foods and kids being active.
Kelley Polasky, with Friendly Days Childcare in Juneau, recently completed the program.
“I've really enjoyed the toys and resources provided through the Let's Move initiative. The resources gave us great ideas for organized and free play,” she said. “The kids especially love the wrist ribbons! They are played with every day. From free dance to organized movements, they are a hit! We also have a toy kitchen, and the healthy toy foods allow the children to cook and pretend serving foods that are good for them. ”
They’ll tell you these sugary drinks are linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
But fewer Alaska parents know that sugary drinks are also linked with heart disease.
During this Valentine’s week — when all of the focus is on the heart — here are a few things to know about how limiting sugary drinks may keep your heart healthy.
Sugary drinks include more than just sodas
. They include sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened powdered mixes, vitamin-enhanced water beverages, and tea and coffee drinks with added syrups and sugars. These drinks can contain a high amount of added sugar. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda or a sweetened fruit-flavored drink can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. A tall glass of a sweetened powdered drink mix can have 11 teaspoons of added sugar. A 20-ounce sports drink can have 9 teaspoons of added sugar.
Kendra Sticka, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said studies show that when you increase the percentage of calories that come from added sugars, you increase your risk of dying from heart disease. This increased risk was reported in the 2014 “Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine,”
and was found after adjusting for several other factors, including Body Mass Index (BMI), diet quality, and physical activity and education levels.
Another recent study published in “Circulation”
showed that each sugary drink matters in terms of health. After adjusting for a number of factors (smoking, physical activity, BMI, diet quality and more), the study showed that each additional sugary drink per day increased the risk of heart disease. Sugary drink consumption was associated with a higher level of inflammation in the body, and inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, Sticka said.
A 2016 Scientific Statement focused on children and issued by the American Heart Association (AHA)
said there is strong evidence supporting a link between added sugars and increased risk for heart disease in kids.
“Far too many children consume too much added sugar, and that puts them at risk for serious health problems,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
Children and adults are drinking too many sugary beverages, and the added sugar from these drinks is associated with an increase in unhealthy cholesterol in the blood – a risk factor for heart disease. Atherosclerosis
— a condition in which fats and cholesterol can build up and harden and narrow your blood vessels — can start in childhood, the AHA Scientific Statement said. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks, strokes and death.
According to the AHA Scientific Statement, sugary drinks contribute about half of the added sugar in children’s diets. They also provide little to no nutritional value. Given that, the AHA recommends that children and adolescents limit their added sugar intake every day and limit their sugary drink intake to 1 or fewer 8-ounce drinks each week. That’s fewer ounces than you’ll find in most sugary drinks sold on the shelves at grocery stores.
Cutting back on sugary drinks, in whatever way you can, will make a difference in your health.
“Any decrease is going to be a benefit,” Sticka said.
Want to reduce the number of sugary drinks you serve your children? Find ways to make water an easier choice
for your family. Have cold pitchers of water ready for your children in the refrigerator. Cut up fruits, like lemons or limes, and put them in a glass of water for a refreshing drink. Give your child their own special water bottle, or straw for their glass, to make it a drink they’ll want to choose.
This winter, about 500 Anchorage elementary school children will get the chance to try a new way to enjoy our long, snowy winters by cross country skiing.
Throughout January and February, the Municipality of Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Department is hosting students from 10 elementary schools, mainly Title 1 schools, (see list of planned field trips below) at the Lidia Selkregg Chalet in Russian Jack Springs Park for ski field trips.
“For many of these kids, it’s the first time they are going to have the opportunity to ski,” said Margaret Timmerman, recreation coordinator for the program. “The whole idea is that we are a winter city and we want them to be aware of, and have a chance to participate in, positive healthy winter activities.”
The Outreach Ski Program began in 1995 and has been offering field trips since 2012 for local students who likely would not otherwise have a chance to try the sport. Timmerman said Parks and Recreation supplies waxless skis, boots and poles for students, as well as trip chaperones and school staff. Parks and Recreation staff and community volunteers provide ski lessons and tips to help students learn to ski.
“We are always happy to have volunteers,” said Timmerman. “And you don’t have to be an elite skier to help out. We have the full gamut of folks that can tie shoes, put on mittens and zip jackets, all the way to professional skiers. You just need to enjoy working with kids and be able to be outside for an hour and a half.”
Students from elementary schools not scheduled for field trips can try out the sport for free at the annual Ski 4 Kids event, to be held this year on Saturday, March 4, 2017, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Kincaid Park Chalet in Anchorage.
Ski 4 Kids is a partnership between Anchorage Parks and Recreation, the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, and Healthy Futures. Families can bring their own skis or use the Outreach Program equipment, and parents are welcome to ski along with their kids.
“It’s a really, really fun event, a winter festival to celebrate winter sports,” said Timmerman.
Kids up to age 14 can ski a 3K loop, timed or untimed, and there is a shorter, read-along storybook trail designed for skiers under age 5 as well. Each child who finishes the route receives a medal and a goodie bag.
“And there are a lot of other activities to try after the ski event,” said Timmerman. “We’ll have showshoeing, orienteering, a treasure hunt, an obstacle course, and more.”
Register for Ski 4 Kids at www.anchoragenordicski.com. There is no charge for the event, but donations are requested to help keep the Outreach Ski Program going.
Below is a list of the planned Outreach Ski Program field trips for February 2017:
Feb 8, 2017: Anchorage Native Charter School (volunteer help needed)
Feb 9, 2017: Chester Valley Elementary (volunteer help needed)
Feb 10, 2017: STrEaM Academy
Feb 14: Russian Jack Elementary (volunteer help needed)
For more information on the Outreach Ski Program, or to arrange a field trip for your school, contact Anchorage Parks and Recreation at (907) 343-4217.
Photographs courtesy of Anchorage Parks and Recreation
In two days, it’s a good bet that 1 out of 5 Alaska elementary school students will start a free challenge to get out and play.
It’s called the Healthy Futures Challenge
, a three-month physical activity challenge that takes place each spring and each fall in kindergarten through sixth grade. Healthy Futures is the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
and has been offered through a partnership with Alaska elementary schools for more than a decade. The number of participating schools and students has increased significantly in recent years. Last fall, almost 15,000 individual children successfully completed the physical activity challenge and won prizes.
The 2017 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge
starts Wednesday, Feb. 1, in about half of Alaska’s elementary schools from Kiana to Klukwan. This spring, 193 schools in districts across the state have signed up to take part.
The Spring Challenge runs in February, March and April. 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.
Participation is free, and children win fun prizes throughout the challenge for being active. This spring, the prizes for completing a Healthy Futures log are a flashing bike light for February, a puzzle ball for March, and a yoyo for April. Participating schools that achieve at least 20 percent student participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge will be eligible to receive a $200 grant. Schools can use this money to purchase educational materials or equipment that supports student physical activity.
Is your school signed up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online
It’s also not too late to sign up your school for PLAAY Day. PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. So far, 81 elementary schools
across Alaska have signed up to participate in PLAAY Day on Feb. 23, 2017, the first statewide effort to get thousands of Alaska children physically active — all at the same time. At 10 a.m. that Thursday, children will gather in school gyms, classrooms, outside, or in recreation centers and join a free, live videoconferencing session filled with different physical activities meant just for kids. Go online
to learn more about this initiative of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and sign up to register your school for PLAAY Day.
Parents know the kitchen table can be a battleground. Trying to get kids to eat, let alone eat healthy foods, can be the cause of many stressful meals. How will these food fights impact children later in their lives?
Child feeding expert Keira Oseroff, faculty member with the Ellyn Satter Institute, will be speaking at the Anchorage Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Annual Conference on January 25, 2017. Keira will be discussing how parents and child care providers can develop and maintain a positive feeding relationship that empowers children to eat and grow well. Ellyn Satter is the author of the “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” which is the gold standard for feeding children.
We talked with Keira to learn more about feeding children.
1. Who is Ellyn Satter, and what does the Ellyn Satter Institute do?
Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist who has dedicated her career and writings to teaching people how to eat and feed their families with health and joy. She has become an international authority on best child feeding practices. Later in her career, she established the Ellyn Satter Institute (ESI) with the goal of continuing her life’s work. ESI teaches positive, joyful, and nutritionally responsible feeding and eating by reaching out to parents, clinicians, educators, researchers and policy makers, offering guidance in both prevention and treatment strategies.
2. What is the “Division of Responsibility” when feeding children?
Satter’s feeding model, “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” is recognized as a best practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Head Start, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).
Satter’s Division of Responsibility says that parents have certain jobs with regard to feeding their kids, and kids have their own jobs when it comes to eating. The Division of Responsibility spells out at each stage of child development what the “boundaries” are when it comes to feeding and eating.
3. You say that parents have a job to feed children, and children have a job to eat the foods they’re given. Explain what you mean by parents’ feeding jobs and children’s eating jobs?
Parents often describe meal times as stressful and filled with power struggles. The Division of Responsibility encourages parents to take a leadership role in feeding. Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding, and children determine whether and how much they eat.
4. Many people are confused and stressed about what they eat and what they feed their children. How can we make eating more enjoyable?
It’s so difficult to tune out the noise that’s all around us. Everywhere we turn, whether it be from public policy, the medical field or pop culture, we are told what to eat, what not to eat, to move more and to weigh less. The noise easily turns into preoccupation about our food, our bodies, our kids’ food and their bodies. It becomes more and more difficult to tune in and trust ourselves when it comes to eating and feeding our kids. The noise and lack of trust are barriers to getting a meal on the table, to sit down with one another and enjoy one another and the food we share. When we become clear about our goal, that is to be together and share the same food, we bring the joy back to eating. When parents feed according to a division of responsibility, mealtimes become more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone.
5. How can parents feed their children to help them grow up at a healthy weight?
Research supports what we have seen for years. That is, when parents focus on the feeding relationship and learn to trust themselves and their children, kids do better with eating. Kids are more likely to grow up in the bodies that are right for them.
6. Why are you speaking to child care providers about the best ways to feed young children?
Being with children for so many hours a day, child care providers are in a key position to help kids develop a healthy relationship with food. They are tuned in to behavioral issues, familiar with developmental stages, and are ready to consider them in the context of feeding. Childhood obesity is a hot button topic ever present in the school environment. It’s important to equip child care providers with tools that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the kids they are charged to care for. And because they are in a unique position to connect with parents, the tools and principles can be shared for practice at home.
Photograph courtesy of Keira Oseroff
When you walk through the lunch line at Ketchikan schools, you have two choices about what kind of milk you’ll drink.
But neither choice comes with added sugar or flavors. You can have white nonfat milk or white 1% lowfat milk. Chocolate milk isn’t served at schools in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District at breakfast, lunch or during school fundraisers, said Emily Henry, wellness coordinator for the district.
Chocolate milk is one of a number of drinks that contain added sugars. Sugar can add up when children drink sweetened beverages at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner – and then eat sugary foods as well. There is evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. One year ago, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans set its first recommended limit for daily sugar intake, stating that adults and kids should limit their added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories they consume every day. For a child, that means just one bottle of soda (16 teaspoons of sugar) or one tall glass of a powdered, sugary drink mix (11 teaspoons of sugar) is too much and exceeds that daily limit of sugar.
In 2014, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District adopted its new wellness policy that doesn’t allow chocolate or flavored milk to be sold as part of the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program. That policy holds for the elementary, middle and high schools serving 2,200 students in the district.
“Ketchikan’s choice to stop selling flavored milk at school is a great example of a district working with their food service to address parent concerns about added sugars in their children’s diets,” said Lauren Kelsey, School Partnership Coordinator with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Norms can change pretty fast in a school district. Having the policy in place during the past three years means pretty soon there won’t be kids in elementary schools who remember when chocolate milk was an option.”
The Ketchikan policy promotes other areas of nutrition, including using Alaska farm and fish products when possible in school meals and snacks, providing salads and fruits to be prominently displayed in dining areas to encourage students to choose healthy foods, and stating that food rewards or incentives should not be used in classrooms to encourage student achievement or good behavior.
“All foods available in district schools during the school day shall be offered to students with consideration for promoting school health and reducing childhood obesity,” the wellness policy states.
The Ketchikan School District’s school wellness policy is up for review again this winter. Henry said the district is considering updating its policy to model the State of Alaska Gold Standard School Wellness Policy, which was revised in 2016 to align with new federal regulations and a new state law requiring almost an hour of physical activity during each school day. Ketchikan’s District Wellness Committee meets Jan. 18 to discuss revising the policy.
Ketchikan schools have also added a number of new ways to help students drink water during the school day.
A student at Houghtaling Elementary School gathered more than 100 signatures from students and staff for a petition presented to the Parent Teacher Association asking to get a water bottling filling station installed. The PTA unanimously approved the petition, and the filling station is on order, Henry said. Ketchikan’s high school has two water bottle filling stations. Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, a charter school for grades PK-6, also has two water coolers and recently won a national award that will help pay for a water bottle filling station, said Cindy Moody, health aide at Tongass. All Tongass classrooms also allow students to keep water bottles at their desks, Moody said. If the students don’t have bottles, the school puts cups next to the water coolers so the students can serve themselves when they are thirsty, she said.
“It’s cool, it’s fresh, it looks appealing,” Moody said about the water coolers. When the cups run out, the kids are quick to let staff know.
“Which they do daily,” Moody said, “because they drink a lot of water.”
To read more about Ketchikan’s school wellness program, visit the district’s website. A copy of the district’s wellness policy also can be found on the Department of Education’s wellness policy website.
Photograph courtesy of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District