South Kitsap schools win national nutrition awards

All 10 elementary schools in the South Kitsap School District were among 72 Washington schools who won national awards for improving the health of their students.

The awards were administered Feb. 27 by the HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.

Four levels of awards are given: bronze, silver, gold and gold of distinction, with increasingly stringent criteria for each level.

Each award comes with a monetary prize: $500 for bronze; $1,000 for silver; $1,500 for gold; and $2,000 for gold of distinction.

The elementary schools receiving the award were Burley-Glenwood, East Port Orchard, Hidden Creek, Manchester, Mullenix Ridge, Olalla, Orchard Heights, Sidney Glen, South Colby and Sunnyslope — all bronze winners.

“The challenge for each school was to show you have meet all the standard dietary guidelines required,” said Ariane Shanley, SKSD director of Food and Nutrition Services. “We were excited that we were able to show that it’s something we are doing.”

Shanley said her department is serving more whole-gain food items and working with local groups to get more local whole grain products when able.

“Finding whole gain items and staying within the guidelines was a challenge for food services,” she said.

For the past 12 years, SKSD schools have put an emphasis “garden or salad bars” in lunches.

“It’s important for children to have a colorful plate with dark greens, vegetables and fresh fruits,” Shanley said. “We have made additional changes to the garden bars. We only use dark leafy greens as the salad component.”

All of our garden bars at all the schools are unlimited.

Shanley said he departments talks with students and shares information how important it is to eat a balanced meal — whole gains, protein, milk, along with fruits and vegetables.

Shanley said he also asks for students’ input or ideas on what they would like to eat for meals.

“Some changes — which came from students — was cutting up the apples, along with serving them whole,” she said. “One student said she loved apples, but couldn’t eat them because she was wearing braces.”

Shanley said they still serve whole apples, but also serve sliced apples.

She said food services uses about 1,800 pounds of apples each week.

“We’re eating a lot of apples,” she laughed.

She added if parents want their children to eat fruits and vegetables as snacks, the parents will probably have to prepare them.

All school meals are trans fat free and meet the sodium standards.

Schools receiving a HUSSC award commit to meeting the criteria throughout their four-year certification period.

“There are many components to student success,” said Randy Dorn, superintendent of public instruction. “One of them is that they receive proper nutrition. All of these schools are doing a great job in that area, and I thank them.”

Since 2011, 156 Washington schools have won an award. The awards are based on how the schools:

• Improve the nutritional quality of the foods served,

• Provide students with nutrition education, and

• Provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

To qualify for an award, each school must submit a formal application and meet basic criteria set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Schools must:

• Participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and be a Team Nutrition school;

• Offer reimbursable lunches consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition standards;

• Support the local wellness policy efforts of the school district; and

• Meet or exceed HealthierUS Challenge criteria

The HealthierUS School Challenge — a part of the FNS — is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.

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