JCPS Leading Nation in Nutrition and Fitness for Students
In October of 2005 Eric Bost, U.S. undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited Jefferson County Public Schools to honor 49 elementary schools for achieving certification as a Gold Level Healthier US School. JCPS holds the distinction of having 49 of only 54 schools in the nation who qualify for this recognition and being the only school district in Kentucky to qualify.
The district chose to participate in President Bush''s HealthierUS Initiative, which is based on the premise that increasing personal fitness and becoming healthier is critical to achieving a better and longer life. The forty nine JCPS schools made a commitment to healthy eating and active lifestyle choices at an exceptional level. Obesity is a growing concern for school children in the United States and the HealthierUS initiative encourages schools to take a leadership role in helping students learn to make beneficial choices.
To achieve the Gold Level Award schools met a set of criteria that include:
- be a K-5 school
- be enrolled with USDA as a Team Nutrition School
- offer lunches that demonstrate principles of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and meet USDA nutrition standards
- provide nutrition education to students
- provide students the opportunity for physical activity
- maintain an average daily participation rate of 70 percent or higher, of school enrollment for USDA lunches
- adhere to guidelines established by the Food and Nutrition Service of USDA for foods served or sold outside the USDA meal programs in schools.
The commitment to Team Nutrition made by JCPS several years ago affirmed their commitment to take the lead in making nutritional changes, conducting nutrition education activities and events, and to the use of innovative materials from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Team Nutrition incorporates the Food Guide Pyramid which offers a Web site that teaches students through computer games. The online game MyPyramid Blast Off offers a fun way to learn the importance of a balanced diet at www.mypyramid.gov/kids/index.html.
JCPS menus meet or exceed the criteria for the gold level award in menu planning and service. A variety of fruits and vegetables, including fresh products are offered daily. Good sources of Vitamin C are featured along with two or more significant sources of iron. Low fat (1 percent), lactose free, and skim milk is also available for students each day and whole grains are on the menu as cereal for breakfast, as breading on entrees or as a bread choice at lunch. Skim, 1 percent flavored and unflavored, and lactose free milk is available each day while whole milk is not. Multiple entrees include a vegetarian choice each day. All offerings are in age appropriate serving sizes and provide specific target amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, and specific vitamins and minerals. No deep fried foods are available and all foods purchased meet specifications that follow nutritious guidelines. Examples include restricted sugar content cereal, low fat cheese, turkey cold cuts, low fat beef, and 100 percent juice drinks while canned or frozen fruits are packed in juice or low sugar syrup.
Nutrition education links are provided via the JCPS website, www.jcpsky.net /Departments/NutritionServices section. School cafeteria managers are provided with interactive wellness plans for presentation to students that include classroom activities, taste testing and printed resources. School-Based Decision Making councils at all elementary schools have established a wellness policy that includes an assessment tool. These policies ensure that students will engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Each schools policy is available by individual school site at www.jcpsky.net/programs/SBDM/SBDM.html .
In 2003 JCPS voluntarily initiated a nutrition-based vending and snack program. In cooperation with the Kentucky Board of Education, guidelines were set for beverages and snacks made available to students during the school day. For the two years prior to the 2005 state statute adoption of guidelines for all school districts there was an increase in the USDA meal program participation for JCPS. The commitment to a healthy environment with newly mandated guidelines includes implementation dates of
Newly mandated nutrition standards for beverages and snacks include a requirement that vending machines and concession sales not begin until one-half hour after the end of the last lunch service and must follow item specific standards until the last instructional period ends. Beverages must be:
- flavored or unflavored milk of no more than 1 percent milk fat
- plain or flavored, non-caloric, non-carbonated water
- 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice
- any other beverage that contains no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving
- maximum of 17 ounces fluid. in elementary, except for water
- maximum of 20 ounces fluid. in middle and high.
Snack items must be:
- 30 percent or less fat
- 10 percent or less saturated fat
- 32 percent or less calories from sugar
- 14 grams or less of sugar
- 300 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
- 2 oz. or less portion pack size for chips, popcorn, trail mix, etc.
- 1 oz. or less for cookies
- 2 oz. or less for sweet bakery type items
- 4 oz. or less for frozen dessert items
- 450 milligrams or less of sodium per serving for pasta, meat and soup
- 600 milligrams or less per serving for pizza, sandwiches and main dishes.
The Jefferson County Public School District is committed to the educational, psychological and physical growth of students. The HealthierUS Gold Level Awards recognize the districts efforts toward making all students successful through an emphasize on nutrition and fitness.
Cheryl Sturgeon is director of School and Community Nutrition Services for Jefferson County Public Schools and is credentialed by the national School Nutrition Association as a school food and nutrition specialist.
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