From left: Dike Newell School Ed Tech Lisa Hardman, Let’s Go! Coordinator Jessie Chalmers and Nurse Dawn Dill. Dike Newell School has achieved gold level distinction from Let’s Go! physical health wellness program. Contributed photo

Dike Newell School in Bath has achieved gold-level distinction from Let’s Go!, a physical health wellness program of the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

The accolade comes during a time when the state at large is struggling with physical wellness, having been recently identified as the most obese New England state according to data from the 16th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report.

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Resources’ website, Let’s Go has 14 different partners statewide to work with child-care programs, school districts (like RSU 1), and healthcare practices to implement evidence-based strategies and develop policies that nurture a routine of healthy eating and active living. Funding for the program is provided by Maine Prevention Services, a branch of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

In Sagadahoc County, Mid Coast Hospital is the community partner working with Let’s Go to oversee the dissemination of the program. DNS has been working with the hospital through Coordinator Jessie Chalmers to evaluate and improve their wellness practices.

“Dike Newell has done a really great job of setting and attaining goals,” said Chalmers during a meeting with School Nurse Dawn Dill, who has played a role in rallying the school around the program.

Dill represents Dike Newell on the District’s Wellness Committee and also organizes the school’s local Community Wellness Committee, a group of seven faculty members who help the school stay on track with its goals. Together they educate staff about the Let’s Go! Strategies for Success, which include limiting unhealthy choices for classroom snacks and celebrations, encouraging water over sugary drinks, prohibiting the use of food as a reward, providing daily opportunities for physical activity, and limiting recreational screen time.

“We don’t want to make anyone feel bad,” said Dill. “Having a treat is OK. What we want to do is make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Dike Newell is currently promoting several programs and activities, for both students and staff, that have contributed to their gold level distinction, including the Fresh Fruits and Veggies Program and SNAP-Ed, USDA programs, which introduce students to fresh produce and teach nutrition. School policy changes, like allowing water bottles in classrooms to encourage drinking water as a healthy habit, prohibiting recreational screen time, and granting teachers in-school breaks to refresh, have made Dike Newell a model school for Let’s Go!.

“We can’t control what happens when (students) go home, but giving them the opportunity (to make healthy decisions) at school can help offset (unhealthy choices) at home,” said Chalmers. “I feel like we owe it to kids to give them a healthy start.”

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