Sharing food goes back to the beginning of time. As we celebrate the holidays, most of us have special dishes that we look forward to devouring, whether it be Aunt Lucy’s pecan pie or Grandma’s roasted turkey and dressing. Food is a fun and traditional way to celebrate with friends, and to count our many blessings during this holiday season.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]

Food is also essential for survival and for learning. Studies show that nutrition can directly affect mental capacity in school-aged children. Good nutrition equates to healthier students who show up at school prepared to learn and are less likely to miss school. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from 2015-2016 show that nearly one in five school-age children in the United States are obese, putting them at risk for many health problems and possibly a shortened life span. Schools can support children by adopting policies and practices that help young people eat more fruits and vegetables, increase physical activity and maintain a healthy weight.

Involving all stakeholders in supporting the health and well-being of our students requires a comprehensive approach. Erin Dow, RSU 5 nutrition director, recently shared information with students at Pownal Elementary School and Durham Community School on the essential components of creating a balanced meal. Afterward, students suggested foods they would like to have served at lunch and the nutrition staff created a menu based on their recommendations. Several board members and I enjoyed the delicious lunch in Durham consisting of chicken teriyaki, veggie lo mein, rice, salad, crab rangoons and a fortune cookie – yum! It was tasty, colorful and balanced, a far cry from the lunches served at school when I was a child. The only time I dared eat in the cafeteria was hamburger day. Most days the meals looked uninviting, consisting mostly of canned and processed foods, leading to most of us bringing our lunches from home.

To improve the health of our students, the RSU 5 Wellness Committee will distribute a survey to staff, parents and students, seeking their input about our nutrition program and how best to support our students’ health and well-being. Erin Dow says her ultimate goal is to “work with our district’s staff and kids to enhance our offerings and broaden the scope of the nutrition program’s reach, both within and outside the walls of the cafeteria.” She says what matters most is to “strengthen our students’ bodies and minds with an engaging and robust nutrition program.”

RSU 5 is well on its way to improving the nutrition program, knowing that it takes time, and most importantly, recognizing that life and nutrition are about balance. During the month of December, enjoy the inherent pleasures of special holiday foods, while still encouraging your children to eat balanced meals. Enjoy the emotional memories that come from the smell and taste of your favorite foods. Today, enjoy creating new memories by decorating sugar cookies with your child. As we ring in the new year, feast on that favorite pie guiltlessly, while remembering the sage advice from Oscar Wilde, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: