Batesville Community School Corp.’s Goal No. 2 is “Together we provide students a well-balanced, safe and productive environment to promote overall wellness.”
The BCSC Wellness Council has been evolving from a think tank to a do tank this year, brainstorming about physical activities Oct. 28. Next up was nutrition Feb. 24.
Superintendent Paul Ketcham led the “strategic doing” session, asking council members with an interest in nutrition for ideas. He noted, “The future of Batesville depends on our ability to work across organizational boundaries. No single individual or organization can build a healthy Batesville alone. Imagine if Batesville developed a national reputation as a community that created continuous opportunities by ‘doing more together.’ What would that look like?”
He asked the 19 in attendance, including Chair Gayla Vonderheide, the BCSC health services director, and Secretary Megan Spreckelson, the Batesville Middle School family and consumer science teacher, to break into groups of three and bounce ideas off each other. Ketcham urged them to move furniture at the Batesville High School Bulldog Center. “Learning is messy!” He wanted a student and Margaret Mary Health dietitian in each group.
Soon it was apparent each group had a focus. Four topics were discussed for 20 minutes: reduce amount of processed foods, meal planning, consistent access to food, and lack of cafeteria time causes wasted foods.
The superintendent challenged, “How are we going to overcome these barriers” so Batesville can develop an innovative reputation?
Three students who are among 50 BHS SOS (Stewards of Sustainability) Club members, seniors Kierra Brock and Vivian Shroder and junior Anna Gerth, brought a young perspective to the gathering. Members meet every other Tuesday in SRT (like a study hall) and after school when needed. Six committees rotate: Healthy Real Food Choices, Save a Bee, Community Clean-Up, Zero Waste Community, Zero Waste School and Plant a Tree.
The club’s mission, according to adviser Taira Lynch, a BHS science teacher who also was there, is “to identify areas of weakness in the realm of environmental stewardship, sustainable living and healthy living not only at Batesville High but also within the entire school corporation and the city of Batesville. Once weaknesses are identified, the group will research, propose and ultimately help implement changes within the school corporation and the local community that promote sustainable, healthy living. In addition, the group will aim to educate students and residents about sustainable, healthy living through meetings, projects and information sent out via print media, radio and the Internet.”
The students are aware of this quote from an unknown source: “If you don’t take time for your wellness, then you will be forced to take time for your illness.”
The Healthy Real Food Choices Committee has six goals: providing fresh food choices and eliminating as much processed/heatup food as possible in the cafeteria; finding healthy snack alternatives to vending machines; educating school employees and students on the problems associated with processed/heatup food; working together with administration and food service to come up with possible solutions; possible visits to schools that have already implemented change; and grant writing.
In an email, Lynch said members want to remove processed food from vending machines and cafeterias because it contributes to added sugar, trans and other unhealthy fats, and sodium in diets, which can lead to metabolic syndrome. The condition puts people at an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes. “We are seeing more and more of these diseases being diagnosed at a much earlier age of onset due to our unhealthy lifestyle. … The best way to pave the way to healthier lifestyles is to implement good eating habits into our children and provide them with the best possible food while they are in school.”
Gerth told her group BHS students sell cookies during SRT to raise dollars for field trips and other projects. She was wondering if that could shift to a food cart selling perhaps apples or other healthy options.
Group 1 spokesperson Tricia McPherson, a Batesville Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher, reported better time management is needed in cafeterias. “It was taking so long to get through the line.” Batesville Primary School second-grade teacher Vickie Heil agreed, “My class is typically one of the last ones to go to lunch.” They arrive at 12:30 p.m., but usually are not seated to eat until 12:45, then at 12:50 some are dismissed to dump their trays.
She said, “We’re going to suggest the packers (who bring lunches to school) just get milk in an alternate line on the other side of the cafeteria.” Students who want “milk only and salad only will come in a different entrance with a point of purchase person, maybe with an iPad. Now we’ve created fewer people in the (main) line.”
BCSC food services director Berna Meyer admitted she wished for a total cafeteria remodel.
Ketcham asked what the measure of success would be. “Less food waste,” answered Heil.
The superintendent questioned, “What about access to locally grown food? Could we incorporate more?” Fresh Local Food Collaborative of Southeast Indiana director Trish Bellmore said preparing local fruits and vegetables “might increase the time to serve, but I hope there’d be less waste.”
Ketcham believed, “It’s an awesome opportunity.”
Harvest of the Month began in 10 school districts, including BCSC, in January. Students sampled spaghetti squash, which was served in place of spaghetti and topped with marinara sauce.
Meyer recalled, “We did two of them. Everything was OK. We cracked 400 eggs. The spaghetti squash, I think a lot of kids were OK with it,” although others were disappointed because it wasn’t pasta.
Group 2 spokesperson Michael McKinney, the BPS physical education teacher, said the importance of nutrition for the development of the adolescent should be stressed. His group was concerned students with less money for meals would choose cheaper, less healthy options.
McKinney proposed tying proper nutrition to students’ interests, such as sports. “Make it relatable to them.” Ketcham agreed, “If you have a basketball game tonight, you should eat these foods. It’s important what you put in your body, how you feel later and how you perform.”
The PE teacher felt monthly newsletters to BPS and BIS parents could emphasize nutrition “lessons they already know.” His group wasn’t sure how to reach BMS and BHS students and parents — newsletters or classroom or larger presentations by MMH dietitians?
Heil realized information is disbursed so quickly now. “What about instead of a whole newsletter, why don’t you do little tweets? ‘Did you know protein is found in broccoli?'”
The superintendent said small actions can add up. “Maybe there’s a shift in our schools about how important nutrition is.”
Eating healthier by planning meals was Group 3’s topic, reported spokesperson Adrienne Found, MMH nutrition services manager. “I’m sure there are some kids packing their own lunches.” How can families be educated about buying the best options? When Margaret Mary Health offers cooking classes, “we really struggle to get people to come to them.”
“An app would be something kids and teenagers would respond really well to. We’re piloting a program right now called Cooking Matters.” It offers an app with recipes and quick cooking tips. She wondered about designing an app that also recommends good snack options.
The superintendent felt an app might be noticed more than a newsletter. Found thought of one stumbling block: While some parents are very tech savvy, others are not.
She mused, “How do we turn Batesville into this community where wellness is a focus? There are other communities that have done this,” some using the 5210 campaign. “When you go to the grocery stores, movie theater, basketball games, it’s slapping you in the face everywhere.”
The 5210 behaviors are evidence-informed daily recommendations from groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and National Association for Sport and Physical Education: five servings of fruits and vegetables, two or fewer hours of recreational screen time, one or more hours of physical activity and zero sweetened beverages.
Reducing processed food consumption in our schools and community was the issue for Group 4, reported Brock, who proposed getting rid of vending machines in favor of snack carts offering fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat crackers, Greek yogurt and string cheese. “We’ve talked about this for after school,” according to the superintendent. The barrier: “Who’s going to run it?”
The student reported, “I’m a vegetarian. Every day I go to the salad and lunch box lines,” but she finds the salad bar is not appealing. Meyer said, “I would love to have input from students” about how to improve it.
Her group also is worried that processed food choices are cheaper. “If you don’t have very much money, you’re going to buy a 50-cent bag of chips, not a $1.50 fruit cup.”
Ketcham said, “That’s a good perspective. That’s why we have students in here.”
Lynch suggested simply taking away the unhealthy options.
Gerth recalled, “When my family switched into healthier options, we stopped craving chips” and wanted fresh vegetables instead.
Brock said, “Our key would be to start young … we’re probably going to face a lot of fightback right now doing this at the high school” as food habits already are ingrained.
“What’s our No. 1 health concern?” quizzed Ketcham. Found answered with two — obesity, a risk factor for cancer, diabetes and heart disease; and opiate addiction.
He concluded, “Let’s keep having discussions and build something together.” The council will explore stress management April 6.