Getting young children to eat healthy foods can be a challenge.
But with the help of the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) program, Hoover Elementary is taking steps toward making it happen for the school’s students.
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. Hoover received one of 20 $4,100 mini-grants from the Indiana Department of Education to help develop its own HUSSC programs and activities. The program is administered through the United States Department of Agriculture.
“The intention of the mini-grant is to help us toward the ultimate goal of applying for the national (HUSSC) award,” explained Angie Frost, a registered dietitian and nutrition educator for the Crawfordsville Community School Corp. “For that award, they will take into consideration things we’re doing as far as the food we feed the students, health education and physical education.”
Crawfordsville Community Schools works with Chartwells, a company that assists schools with healthy eating programs. Each month, Chartwells challenges the schools it works with to educate students about the health values of a certain food and demonstrate fun and appetizing ways they can incorporate that food into their diets. This month’s food was tomatoes, and on Thursday students were treated to homemade salsa served with whole-wheat tortilla chips — a perfect fit for a Wild West theme day, which was also held at Hoover on Thursday.
Betsy Horneffer, director of dining services for Chartwells, said the idea behind HUSSC was to “get schools, students and cafeterias to be more active” with regard to making healthy food choices. Nicholson Elementary in Crawfordsville also got one of the mini-grants for the program, and Horneffer said Hose Elementary School will likely apply for one next year.
Horneffer understands that getting youngsters to eat the foods Chartwells and HUSSC promotes, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, isn’t always easy. That’s why taking a fun approach has a better chance of working.
“Next month our focus food is dark green, leafy vegetables,” she said. “Hoover will be doing a Dracula’s Diner theme for Halloween, and the snacks will be made with spinach.”
“I know it sounds strange,” she said with a chuckle. “But getting out and getting the samples of the healthy snacks to the kids is so important. The reason many schools don’t participate in these kinds of programs is because they don’t think the kids will like the foods. The trick is to get them to eat small samples. Research shows that kids sometimes have to try something four or five times before they start to like it.”