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TUSD takes a bite into nutrition education

POSTED September 15, 2009 11:19 p.m.
Obesity has more than doubled in children from the age of five to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This comes as no surprise to parents and teachers who often see children pass up healthy food offered in the lunch room and choose anything with grease or sugar.
Since most children would prefer an order of French fries over carrots, the Turlock Unified School District decided Tuesday to provide nutrition education and nutrition-related subject matter to promote healthy living to students at TUSD elementary schools starting Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2012.  
This new program will target students in kindergarten through sixth grade who attend schools where at least half of the students are participating in the free and reduced lunch program. All of the elementary schools will be using this program, said Scott Soiseth, TUSD director of food services.
The program will be used for fourth and fifth graders only and it will be a part of every day lessons, Soiseth said. TUSD is proposing the program to teachers this week, they will start training and then the program will begin.  
“Our job is to provide the best education possible and that isn’t just to provide them with reading and writing,” said Timm LaVelle, president of the TUSD board of trustees. “We have to make the best possible as a whole person which includes eating right and exercising.”  
The goal of the program is to encourage students to eat three to five cups of fruits and vegetables a day, along with getting at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. The program is hoping to improve children’s short-term health and reduce long-term risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  
The program will not cost the district any money as TUSD was awarded a grant from the Regents of the University of California Cooperative Extension and Stanislaus County.
Under the agreement between the University of California Cooperative Extension, Stanislaus County and TUSD, the district must teach a total of 20 hours per year of “extended nutrition education,” which needs to reach at least 100 children within the TUSD during 10 sessions either in classrooms, after-school programs or various sites.  
“This program is an extension of what TUSD has been working on with helping their students,” LaVelle said. “When children come to school after eating a healthy meal and they exercise they study more in school and get better test scores.”   
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.
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