Bill Bennett and Althea Bennett McGirr, along with Oakie, recently joined students at Bath Middle School in the presentation of a $4,000 grant to support programs to improve healthy eating and increase physical activity. (Courtesy of Oakhurst Dairy)

Bill Bennett and Althea Bennett McGirr, along with Oakie, recently joined students at Bath Middle School in the presentation of a $4,000 grant to support programs to improve healthy eating and increase physical activity. (Courtesy of Oakhurst Dairy)

BATH — Oakhurst Dairy, northern New England’s largest independent familyowned dairy company, recently awarded its first “Living Natural Goodness” school grant totaling $4,000 to Bath Middle School.

According to a news release, Oakhurst has partnered with Fuel Up to Play 60, a nationwide program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League with the goal of empowering students to help create their own nutrition and physical activity programs.

Oakhurst has committed to awarding grants totaling $10,000 to schools in New England participating in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

“Bath Middle is thrilled to be the recipient of Oakhurst Dairy’s first ‘Living Natural Goodness’ school grant,” said principal Louis Solebello. “During this time when funding is being reduced, it’s great to see a local company like Oakhurst support our school’s efforts to help students be active and healthy.”

With the funding from Oakhurst Dairy, Bath Middle School students, led by its National Junior Honor Society and Student Council members in collaboration with Diana Hixon, the school nurse and the BMS wellness team, plan to implement two programs to encourage healthy eating.

The first, a program called “Tantalize this Space,” involves a makeover of the school’s multi-purpose cafeteria. In the new space, the students will host theme days with coordinating healthy entrees, and create a new, dynamic information center to provide nutrition facts, updates on school and wellness activities, highlight the week’s healthy food options, and host nutrition and fitness trivia contests designed by the students themselves.

And in an effort to offer students healthier snack options, funds will support supply needs for the “After School Snack Shack” program where students sell fresh fruit smoothies and healthy snacks to their peers.

In an effort to increase physical activity options for students, the school has developed programs and plans to improve existing ones with funds from the grant. The first, called “Game On,” is an expansion of the current physical activity room filled with fun motor activities like ping pong and Wii dance and sporting games that teachers can use for team building activities, and as a class reward or alternate recess. New games such as air hockey and foosball will be added and the room’s purpose expanded to support afterschool wellness activities and tournaments.

“Inside Out” is an initiative that will create functional recess and activity areas. The school will turn an existing parking lot into an outdoor recess area with basketball hoops, four square courts, a gaga court (similar to dodgeball) and equip it with jump ropes, hula hoops and an assortment of balls. Finally, the students will purchase equipment for inside recess activities, including Lunchtime Limbo as well as electronic dance and sporting games.

“The students at Bath Middle School have created some exciting ways to make good nutrition and regular exercise a part of their daily routine and we’re delighted to help make their plans a reality,” said Bill Bennett, president and CEO of Oakhurst Dairy. “We wish them great success and hope other schools will learn from their creativity, enthusiasm and dedication.”

The Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council reviewed applications from state schools for the Oakhurst “Living Natural Goodness” school grants and Bath Middle School was selected based on its plans to create ways to increase access to healthy, nutrient-rich foods and physical activity participation as well as raise awareness.

“The Fuel Up to Play 60 program is unique because it involves students directly in the development of school nutrition and physical activity programs,” said Katie Hoffmann of the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council. “We’ve seen that these types of student designed programs have more staying power because of the investment the children make in creating them.”

Educators, students, parents and others committed to their local schools are encouraged to submit an application. Interested individuals can learn more about Oakhurst “Living Natural Goodness” school grants by visiting www.oakhurstdairy.com.

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