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home : features : schools & education August 1, 2014

4/30/2014 8:50:00 AM
Recess before lunch is big winner in students' day
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Lake Valley second-graders, from left, Shawnelle Goodluck, Qillian Valencia-Huffman and Tiana Valentin enjoy their selections of fruits and vegetables at lunch table on April 24.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Lake Valley second-graders, from left, Shawnelle Goodluck, Qillian Valencia-Huffman and Tiana Valentin enjoy their selections of fruits and vegetables at lunch table on April 24.
Sue Tone

Lake Valley Elementary students take part in a Recess Before Lunch program, and results are impressive, Tami Hitt-Wyant, director of food and nutrition for the Humboldt Unified School District, told governing board members during her department update at the April 8 meeting.

"This has proven to increase consumption of meals and improve classroom behavior," Hitt-Wyant said.

Students no longer rush out to the playground, leaving their lunch partially eaten. They play first, then eat.

"When children's bellies are full, they are able to concentrate better, they are less likely to visit the nurse's office, and are less likely to misbehave," HUSD nutritionist Pam Liuzzo said.

Lake Valley also received a $1,500 grant from Action for Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization with federal, state and private business partners. The money helped purchase a portable cart that could be placed near the school's playground before school starts. A "grab-n-go" breakfast means students could eat and play at the same time.

"Many children at Lake Valley get off the bus in the morning, and head straight to the playground without eating breakfast. The goal was to bring to food closer to the buses so that children were more likely to eat first, then play after," Liuzzo said.

Glassford Hill Middle School received a federal/National Football League Fuel Up to Play 60 grant for $4,000. The Food and Nutrition Department partnered with physical education teachers to help promote the benefits of school breakfast. During a three-week period, it provided free breakfast to all students, and paid for exercise bands, balls and mats.

Humboldt Elementary School implemented a model program called Breakfast in the Classroom and increased breakfast participation by about 30 percent, which means more children are actually eating breakfast, Hitt-Wyant said.

Staff packs milk, fruit and the main entrée into insulated coolers placed outside the classrooms before students arrive. Students grab their breakfast and sit down at their desk to eat. The entire process takes 10 to 15 minutes, Liuzzo said.

"Teacher and staff feedback has been very positive," she added.

On July 1, new standards clamp down on what food and beverages are sold at school, including lunchrooms, vending machines and fundraisers.

Hitt-Wyant said Arizona Nutrition Standards are stricter even than USDA guidelines.

"This will not affect our Food and Nutrition Department much because we have always followed Arizona Minimum Nutrition Standards, which was pretty close to the new Smart Snack Standard," Liuzzo said.

School fundraisers will be hit the hardest because most of the food or beverages that currently are sold do not meet the new standard. Luizzo said this might encourage groups to sell more non-food items, or at least more nutritious foods.

Hitt-Wyant's report also listed the Humboldt schools that earned the Golden Plate Awards, which indicates no critical food handling violations, implementation of an approved food safety plan, and the person in charge having a manager-level food safety certificate.

The schools are:

• Bradshaw Mountain High School, six consecutive years, led by Julee Baeighkley.

• Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, seven consecutive years, led by Paula DeHeer.

• Granville Elementary, two consecutive years, led by Stacy Costanzi.

• Glassford Hill Middle School, second consecutive year, led by Kay Timm.

Only 168 food establishments in Yavapai County earned a Golden Plate Award this year.

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