Learning to eat | SierraSun.com

Learning to eat

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

Jason Kelley/Sierra SunJenay Bauerlein,8, picks out fresh fruit out of Lincoln at the Truckee Farmers Market on Tuesday. Jenay is a student at Glenshire Elementary, a Truckee Tahoe Unified School District school that will be adding more fruit to lunches this year.

California’s children are getting fatter, and both state and local nutrition experts are trying to derail the trend.

Several statewide efforts to raise awareness about California’s obesity epidemic have been initiated in recent months, including a move by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that will impact students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

Last year Schwarzenegger signed legislation that invested more than $18 million to put more fruits and vegetables into the mouths of school-aged children by reimbursing schools 10 cents for every fresh piece of produce they provide to students.

Children in Tahoe Truckee Unified schools began reaping the benefits in the spring of 2006 when a fresh piece of fruit began appearing on the plate of every student when they participated in their school’s breakfast program. By this fall even more options will be available for students in the district.

“The program teaches children healthy habits when they are allowed the opportunity to have a fresh fruit everyday, as they might not be getting it at home,” said Rose Walterbeek, the district’s food services director.

Prior to receiving state funding, students in the district were not being served fresh items every day. But a single apple or banana in the morning isn’t enough to induce big change, so parents and health and nutrition professionals have gathered to form the Nutrition Coalition, a network that aims to bring nutrition education to Truckee and the North Shore, including school programming.

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“There have been concerns about what has been available to children in school, including vending machines,” said George LeBard, executive director of Project MANA and a coalition participant. “The schools are in a position where they can actually have an impact on what kids eat; so there can be a collaboration there.”

A coalition committee is currently in the process of writing a grant to Balance Bar to fund exercise programs in area preschools, LeBard said. If awarded, the funding would provide exercise kits to care providers and possibly to individual families that include exercise balls, yoga mats, bean bags, scarves and hula hoops. The grant would also provide for teacher training and an exercise professional who could provide in-home education.

As a guinea-pig project, new nutrition policies will be implemented at Kings Beach Elementary beginning Fall of 2006, according to Kaili Sanchez, Truckee program manager for Project MANA. The new policies will require that no candy or sweets are used as rewards in the classroom, and that extra recess can be substituted instead. Students will also not be allowed to bring sodas to school.

“People are being bombarded by high fat and high sugar at the supermarket and on TV so we are doing our best to provide the fruits and vegetables and the education that goes a long with it to empower them to make choices for a healthier lifestyle,” Walterbeek said.

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946 and now serves more than 1,200 students in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District each day. NSLP also provide meals for the state preschool in Truckee and Head Start preschools.

6 percent of students at Donner Trail participate in the National School Lunch Program

9 percent of students at Glenshire

10 % at Tahoe Lake

14 % at Tahoe Truckee High School

23 % at Alder Creek Middle School

32 % at North Tahoe High School

44 % at North Tahoe Middle School

45 % at Truckee Elementary

75 % at Kings Beach Elementary

100% at Sierra High

The next Nutrition Coalition Meeting, which is open to the public and welcoming of new participants, is scheduled for Thurs., Aug. 17 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 at Tahoe Forest Hospital’s Center for Health and Sports PerformanceEducational Conference Room, 2nd floor. 10710 Donner Pass Rd.