PORTLAND — Students at Portland Middle School are getting healthier options in the lunchroom and they are behind the decisions.
A member of Project Healthy Schools, which is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services program called Building Healthy Communities, dropped by the school to help provide more healthy options for students during Michigan Apple Crunch Day.
“Our program works specifically with middle schools. We bring a health education to our schools, so they teach the sixth-graders 10 lessons about nutrition, physical activity and they learn some life skills about cooking and taking care of their bodies,” Project Healthy Schools Wellness Coordinator Jana Stewart said. “We organize school-wide initiatives like this to make it a little bit easier for students to practice healthy habits. Increasing access to fruits and vegetables, giving them opportunities to be more active or try other things that they might not have tried before.”
The fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders tried three different kinds of Michigan apples during their lunches, Jonagold, Gala and Fuji. Then they were able to vote on their favorite, which it didn’t seem like the students were all on the same page.
“Then I’m going to work with food service to try to get that apple variety that was their favorite into their lunchroom, so they can have it a little bit more regularly since they identified they really liked that variety,” Stewart said.
That means the kids are getting involved with the decision of what foods will be available for lunches. The second part of the day involved the Lifetime Fitness class and healthy recipes. The students brought in recipes and narrowed it down to their favorite five. Those meals were then made and delivered to a nearby classroom where students will pick their favorite and that recipe will also be given to food service and might show up in the cafeteria.
“One thing we don’t want is for people to not pick up fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria just because it’s a kind or variety they don’t like,” Stewart said. “If we can get something in there that the kids are excited about and they remember having it at an event like this they’re more likely to put it on their tray.”
Principal Kevin Robydek and Dean of Students Leanna Davis even got into the fun of Project Healthy Schools by dressing up like a carrot and a strawberry.
“We’ve got great kids and we’re really working hard as a staff to make sure we’re promoting healthy things that kids when they leave here and go to high school and college after or whatever they choose that they’re choosing those healthy options. I want them to feel good and have healthy things to choose from,” Robydek said.