Partnerships to keep kids healthy: Tahoe Forest Health System teams up with Tahoe Truckee schools | SierraSun.com

Partnerships to keep kids healthy: Tahoe Forest Health System teams up with Tahoe Truckee schools

Jill Whisler
Special to the Sierra Sun

With childhood obesity on the rise and fitness on the decline, the Tahoe Forest Health System and Tahoe Truckee Unified District wanted to do more to address the health of the kids in our community.

Each school year, Tahoe Forest Health System teams up with Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to offer programs that support healthy eating and activity habits for kids.

Students love Harvest of the Month, an initiative of the California Department of Public Health, is a nutrition education and tasting program. Tahoe Forest Health System works with local farmers like Tahoe Food Hub and Tahoe Central Market in Kings Beach to provide local and seasonal fruit and vegetables native to our area for the program.

Each month throughout the school year a classroom volunteer educates the children about the science of growing, the benefits of eating, and the opportunity to taste test a seasonal fruit or vegetable. This year our delicious harvests include pomegranates, tomatoes, bell peppers, blood oranges and grapefruits, green beans and our favorite sensory month with onions, garlic, and herbs.

Tahoe Forest Health System introduced this program over 11 years ago to TTUSD. Each year it has grown and now reaches over 150 classrooms in our local schools.

"My child likes eating broccoli after Harvest of the Month!" shares an enthusiastic mother of a six-year old.

Another popular program is B-Fit (Be Fit In Tahoe). With childhood obesity on the rise and fitness on the decline, the Tahoe Forest Health System and Tahoe Truckee Unified District wanted to do more to address the health of the kids in our community. B-Fit was launched in TTUSD's elementary schools more than six years ago to increase physical activity in the classroom, prevent and reduce childhood obesity, and improve academic performance in the elementary schools.

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How does the B-FIT program work?

B-Fit incorporates physical activity into the classroom with daily "activity bursts" and provides monthly wellness themes. All teachers are encouraged to add at least two 5-minute activity bursts a day in their classroom schedule as a quick brain break and energy release which supports focus and concentration in class. Sometimes the burst is integrated into what they are learning, where students work on multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks!

Each month, there is also a wellness theme and educational material to teach the students and their families about the benefits of healthy habits such as nutrition, physical activity, sleep, reducing screen time, dental hygiene, stress management and more! Many classes have a trained parent volunteer who visits the classroom each month to promote the wellness theme.

Both Harvest of the Month and B-Fit are volunteer assisted, and we are always looking for help in the classrooms. If you have a passion for health and would love to join us, please contact Rethink Healthy, Gwen VanNatta at 530-550-6730, or email gvannatta@tfhd.com.

Jill Whisler, MS, RDN is coordinator of Harvest of the Month and B-FIT programs, which will be starting soon in the TTUSD. For more information on how you can get involved in our programs, email: jwhisler@tfhd.com.