One Liberty County school was recognized as a Healthy Schools Program model for its success in cutting high-calorie beverages and increasing its servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
As part of the honor, two Lewis Frasier Middle School students joined administrators Tuesday in a roundtable discussion about the school’s health-related programming with U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and representatives of Sens. Johnny Isaakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
“I have some personal experience eating healthy, because when I was little, I used to eat a lot of junk food and sugary snacks, and I wouldn’t eat meat and I would get sick all the time,” sixth-grader Jordan Spires said.
But Jordan’s mother stepped in and corrected his diet, and now he rarely gets sick, he said. “When I eat sugar, it tastes really good at first, and then in the end, you feel all bloated and you just want to sit down — and I realized that sugar does this to me, and now I want to help other students come to the same realization.”
Jordan and seventh-grader Tiana Jackson joined school nurse Peggy Rayman, Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer and nutrition director Dr. Chris Reddick in a discussion about how the school has embraced healthier habits and what it needs to continue doing so.
The event, Connect with Congress: Healthy Schools Program Leadership, Training & Congressional Meetings, was coordinated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose mission is to improve health and health care.
“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation five years ago made a $500 million commitment to end the childhood epidemic of obesity, and part of that is support for the Healthy Schools Program,” foundation consultant Andrew Peters said.
Healthy Schools is led by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It offers resources and standards for snacks and meals, physical activities and employee wellness.
Together with Healthy Schools, RWJF selected 12 schools around the nation to take part in the discussions with Congress, Peters said.
Lewis Frasier, one of 14,000 nationwide participants, was selected for its success in removing sugary drinks from school vending machines.
The school only stocks water, vitamin-infused water and low-calorie, low-sugar juices, Rayman said.
“It’s interesting that in the middle of the deep South, where sugar is sometimes king, that it has not even created a ripple of push-back or complaints,” Rayman said.
Other school efforts include a 50-day health challenge using the USDA’s Choose My Plate website and an initiative to introduce five minutes of physical activity into each class period.
The district also has incorporated convection economy ovens, which will allow nutrition departments to create baked foods that are similar to fried products, Reddick said.
With sugary drinks out of the way, the school now is looking for ways to increase activity among students, Rayman said. “Our children only get one quarter of (physical education) every year — that’s nine weeks — and, you know, changing that would be very difficult because there are so many educational standards that we’re trying to meet as well.”
Kingston asked when the school began giving children only nine weeks of physical education and why.
“We try to make sure that kids get some technology, to diversify their electives — some kids take art, some kids take keyboarding — so we try to make it diversified for them,” Principal Jermaine Williams said.