Healthy Meals, Healthy Minds: Ohio County Schools Promote Nutrition

March may be National Nutrition Month, but Ohio County Schools are promoting healthy eating for healthy minds year-long.

Renee Griffin, a registered dietitian and the child nutrition director for Ohio County Schools, said the month is a great time to re-energize and celebrate the annual campaign that recognizes the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

The 2014 theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” one Ohio County Schools are mindful of while developing food programs.

“This year more than anything the push is toward breakfast,” said Griffin. “There’s just so much research showing the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. We’re really doing all kinds of things in our schools to offer alternative breakfast strategies so that we can make sure every child has the opportunity to eat a healthy breakfast at school.”

Wheeling Park High School has more than doubled its breakfast participation by implementing a “second chance” breakfast program. Adding to the grab-and-go breakfast already offered in the morning, the program offers students a “second chance” at getting fresh fruit, granola bars, low fat or skim milk and other portable, sometimes hot food items before attending home room around 9 a.m.

Considering it’s a fairly new option and about 300 students can pass through the “second chance” line in five minutes, Griffin said the school has the system down to a science – one that she would like to see in place at other Ohio County schools as well.

“Our goal is to have some alternative breakfast strategy in place at every school by the beginning of next year,” said Griffin, adding every school model will be different based on population, labor hours, kitchen design and other factors.

All Ohio County Schools serve breakfast and lunch following USDA guidelines for school menus, meal preparation and serving. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that authorized funding and set policy for child nutrition programs has contributed to healthier meals at schools, although Griffin said West Virginia has been proactive in its nutrition approach for some time.