Promoting healthy living in schools in Grand Forks and School District 51 is one of the main goals in the Health Promoting Schools program.
During her presentation at a recent School District 51 school board meeting, Health Promoting Schools co-ordinator Heather Shilton explained making the healthy choice should be the easy choice.
“Parents strongly agree that healthy food shouldn’t be limited at school, but they should be allowed to give their children what they want,” she said. “What we think is normal has really changed with the times and how we serve food makes a difference.”
Shilton added students who were able to eat well and are healthy focus better academically, are absent and are tardy less often, and function better behaviourally and emotionally.
“Students are less anxious and are ready to learn in class, so it’s not just about the health benefits of being fits,” she said.
School health teams identify health promotion needs and create plans to address those needs. From there, Shilton explained the plans are implemented and evaluated to see how successful they are.
In the third year of a three-year contract with the Interior Health Authority (IHA), schools in the district have seen an improvement in healthy options, including active transportation and class discussions.
“Programs such as iWalk week, where students walked around the block before school and were given a healthy snack, are helping students and keeping them active,” said Shilton. “There are in-class discussions about the benefits of physical activity and PACs (parent advisory committees) also serve healthy snacks that have been donated by local grocery stores.”
Shilton noted IHA is interested in continuing to fund the program and there is also a provincial interest in improving the health of its residents.