School lunches have come a long way since the heyday of deep-fried fish sticks and tater tots, and fitness efforts have evolved tremendously from the rope climb and dodge ball.
Fayette County Public Schools recently released a report card on its efforts in wellness and nutrition, which have become important parts of the school day.
One of the most popular efforts is school gardens, said Tresine T. Logsdon, the district's energy and sustainability curriculum coordinator. Of the 55 Fayette County schools, 35 have gardens. That includes rain gardens and butterfly gardens, but 27 schools have vegetable gardens, she said.
"There is a great deal of enthusiasm right now," she said, adding that each garden was the result of a community partnership. "The partnerships are critical," she said. "It is a complete collaborative effort."
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Gardens offer a variety of educational opportunities. Not only can kids learn where food comes from, "any teacher from any classroom can incorporate a school garden into their curriculum," Logsdon said. That might mean using gardens to show how science works or using math to calculate harvests.
Myron Thompson, school system health and wellness coordinator, said it's important for schools to be able to share what is happening so good programs can be expanded and improved. Those efforts can range from salad bars featuring local produce to bursts of exercise built into classroom activities to help break up the instructional day, he said.
Here are some other health and nutrition highlights featured in the school report:
Fryer free: Thirty-nine of 55 schools in Fayette County no longer have fryers in their cafeterias. Most menu items are baked instead.
Fresh is best: Arlington, Booker T. Washington, Breckinridge, Cardinal Valley, Harrison, Mary Todd, Northern, Russell Cave and William Wells Brown elementary schools participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that provides healthy snacks during the school day outside of lunch and breakfast.
Farm to school program: Students at Cardinal Valley Elementary were exposed to a variety of locally grown and healthy foods on three occasions, with each including a taste test. The taste tests included blueberries, kale, squash and sweet potatoes. Salad bars at all five Fayette County high schools now feature locally grown lettuce and other produce when it is available.
Fuel up: Schools have collaborated with the National Dairy Council and the National Football League to encourage students to make healthy choices and move more. Schools are working to promote the importance of eating a healthy breakfast and offering prizes and rewards for making good choices. Participating schools include Beaumont, Rosa Parks and Garden Springs elementaries, and Tates Creek and Southern middle schools.
To look at the health and nutrition report card from Fayette County Public Schools, go to Bit.ly/1fFfAZ0.