Friday, August 26, 2011

School's daily PE, fresh fruit set kids on a healthy path

The school board said, "Make health a priority."

With that directive, Cheryl McIntire began the next phase of her career three years ago, as principal of Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois.

This summer, she flew to New York to receive the first Gold Award given to an elementary school by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which has been working with schools since 2006 to fight childhood obesity.

Certain things at Northeast Elementary really stand out. During class, the teachers lead students through a physical activity break, where they do yoga or some simple stretching. They have PE class every single day, and snack on fresh fruits like strawberries, grapes and blueberries.

The Alliance, founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, currently partners with about 12,000 of the nation’s 99,000 elementary and secondary schools to offer free guidance on improving school environments.

Of those 12,000 schools, only three have received the Gold Award.

“If we can measure that we have stopped the rise of young children who are obese and chronically overweight and that it’s going back down, and if we can see a reversal in the number of young people who developed type II diabetes,” former President Bill Clinton tells Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “then I think you will see that will have enormous ramifications through the health care system.”

In the halls of Northeast Elementary, a banner announces the school’s Gold Award status, but the real impact, say administrators, is felt well beyond the campus walls.

“One of the things on our parents' survey is how excited they were about the exposure that our children have had to fruits and vegetables that they have never tasted before,” says McIntire, “and how much they’ve encouraged their parents when they’re grocery shopping to buy those things at home.”

Online link to the article



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