Blanton teaches better nutrition

Students at Blanton Elementary recently took part in a pilot program to teach them more about proper nutrition — and they seemed to enjoy the results.

Blanton fourth- and fifth-grade students recently took part in a program where they would fill out a “nutrition score card” of what they ate for lunch each day, including what food group each item fits within. The program coincided with National School Lunch Week, which encourages students to “find a better balance between healthy eating and physical activity,” according to the School Nutrition Association.

Students said the program helped remind them of what’s nutritious to eat as well as the daily recommended amounts of each food category. Each score card gave students six categories to fit their food choices in — fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, dairy or other — with teachers helping if they were unsure where each food fit.

Piper Cummings, a fifth-grader at Blanton, said the system helped her learn what kind of foods are missing from her regular diet.

“I realized I’m not eating as healthy as I thought I was because I don’t have many fruits and vegetables,” said Piper Cummings. “We have healthy food at home, but I never really talked about it with my parents, so this helped me learn what’s healthy a bit better.”

The nutrition score card was part of students’ “data binders,” which get sent home with them for parents to see. Included in the binders are “everything we do for school,” Piper said, from journal entries to test results.

Taking the “data binders” home led to more discussion with her parents about areas where she may want to eat healthier, Piper added.

Students said the pilot program has helped them keep track of their nutrition.

Fellow Blanton fifth-grader Kaylee Jernigan agreed with Piper’s opinion of the score card, saying the program taught her a lot about her eating habits.

“It makes it really easy to see what’s healthy,” she said. “I also realized I should probably be eating more vegetables and having more dairy. I showed it to my mom and dad so now they can see it, too.”

Becky Gray, the cafeteria manager at Blanton, said the program has been “a big help” in teaching students how to eat healthier, as it lets them directly see if they aren’t eating food in certain categories. Another way it helps, she said, is that a large amount of foods in the “other” category typically indicates too much junk food.

As part of the district’s lunch program, students who go through their school’s lunch line are required to take a fruit or vegetable with their lunch. Previously, Mrs. Gray said, some students would just throw them away without realizing why they’re important. Seeing that fruits and vegetables are their own categories helped underscore their importance to students.

To help understand each category, Mrs. Gray decorated the lunch line to highlight each food type, which went along with a menu and what category each food fits in.

“Obviously kids love ice cream, but sometimes they forget what’s important to eat in order to stay healthy,” Mrs. Gray said. “I think this is a great program as it’s really helped kids see what they’re eating and if they’re following our menu correctly. Plus it’s always great to see kids excited and wanting to eat healthy.”

Fifth-grader Allen Pascullo said the program met Mrs. Gray’s goals of being simultaneously informative and entertaining.

“I enjoyed the nutrition score cards — it was kind of fun,” he said. “It was a good way to teach us about our food choices, and now I know I need to start eating a little bit healthier.”

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