Thursday, September 27, 2012
In an effort to combat childhood obesity and help save the environment, Hixson United Methodist Child Development Center students eat healthy foods and use regular cups, plates and silverware instead of paper plates and cups.
The school is “Gold Sneaker”-designated by the state. The program was developed to enhance policy related to health and wellness within licensed child care facilities across Tennessee. The local center received the designation due to its new smoke-free environment, the healthy meals it provides students and its emphasis on physical activity.
“The Gold Sneaker Initiative funded by the state of Tennessee is in response to the childhood obesity epidemic and childhood diabetes,” said HUMCDC Director Lana Green, who has been in the education field for 21 years serving as a public school teacher, behavior specialist, preschool trainer and center director. “GSI wants to catch the kids as young as possible to teach them healthy habits.”
As part of the center’s efforts to promote healthy living, she said local business Kids Gourmet began catering meals for the students this year.
“We serve fresh fruits and vegetables daily,” said Green. “We serve family-style and teach portion control. For example, we serve a half a cup of strawberries [a regular serving size]. We encourage them to try new foods. Whatever is in season is on the menu.”
She said students, who eat a morning and afternoon snack as well as lunch while at school, measure out their healthy meals while serving themselves under supervision. They recently sampled spaghetti, spinach salad with ranch dressing and cantaloupe.
The students are also encouraged to take part in physical activity throughout the day.
“Children watch everything you do, so we want to model the best things, like staying in Scripture, drinking plenty of water and eating healthy,” said Green.
She said the school is growing and plans to continue adding classes. The school is accepting more full-time 3-year-old students and more after-school care students ranging from grades K-5.
Green said the school, which emphasizes spiritual connection through Scripture verses, is starting to use the High Reach Curriculum this fall. High Reach focuses on all aspects of a child, cognitive, social and physical, and incorporates learning experiences through guided play and active discovery. To prepare for the new curriculum, teachers spent time over the summer labeling everything in the classroom with a picture and a name so students could connect everything. A sack of learning materials will go home with the students this fall to connect the classroom to their home environment.
The school uses a new check-in and -out computer-based system and keeps the doors locked 24/7 for security.