Elgin Area School District U-46 is launching Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness Contests for third- to 12th-graders to promote a holistic approach to wellness as schools prepare to celebrate National School Lunch Week around the theme "Recipes for Success."
"School lunches are healthier than ever, with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and less fat and sodium," said Claudie L. Phillips, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for U-46. "National School Lunch Week helps us educate parents and students about all the benefits of our lunch program, and the appealing choices we offer."
National School Lunch Week is being celebrated in schools across the country Oct. 9-13.
The federally funded National School Lunch Program has been serving the nation's children for more than 60 years and provides nutritionally balanced, healthy meals to more than 30 million children every day.
The Department of Food and Nutrition Services last spring recognized Oakhill Elementary in Streamwood and Abbott Middle School in Elgin for their comprehensive programs to encourage student well-being.
Highland Elementary in Elgin has been nominated to receive the award in May 2018 as part of the local U-46 program called "Excellence in Total School and Community Involvement: A Recipe That Works."
These schools, Phillips said, are recognized for their student involvement in special food-related events, such as the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and for encouraging strong relationships among parents, food service workers, teachers and industry partners.
These three schools also enjoy active Youth Advisory Councils in which student members serve as the "kids' voice," said Phillips. These students are invited to evaluate cafeteria offerings, recommend additions to the menu, and speak at events where they can interact with industry partners. Many of the children who serve on the councils are passionate about food and enjoy playing a role in the food service program, Phillips said.
For the 2017-18 school year, U-46 launched "Fuel Up and Learn Stations" in all of the elementary schools to encourage children to make wise choices. The program's mascot Captain Nutrition and his League of Super Foods are featured on all of the promotional materials.
Captain Nutrition provides details about the nutritional benefits of each meal component and helps educate children about the importance of healthy choices and physical activity.
The Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness Contests will vary by grade level as such:
• Students in third through sixth grades who participate in their school's Youth Advisory Councils will be asked to create their own recipe using popular food items served at their schools. They can use pictures or words, and creativity, neatness and layout will count.
• Members of the Youth Advisory Councils in seventh and eighth grades will be asked to write their own "Recipe for Success" for a well-balanced, well-rounded life using wellness components such as physical activity, emotional well-being and academic achievement. Students can include photos, magazine pictures or drawings on their submission, to be designed on a poster board or large piece of paper.
• High school members of the Youth Advisory Councils will also be invited to compete in a contest similarly structured to the one offered to middle school students.
Students must submit their entries to their school's cafeteria manager at the end of October. Judging of the contest entries will be done by U-46 industry partners in November 2017. All participants will receive a certificate of participation.
The grand prize in each contest is an iPad Mini, to be awarded on May 4, 2018, during the Youth Advisory Councils Summit and Employee Awards Recognition Ceremony; gift cards will be awarded as well to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners before winter break.
Earlier this year, the University of Illinois Extension's Illinois Nutrition Education Programs (INEP) awarded "gold status" to Streamwood High School, Elgin High School, Bartlett High School, South Elgin High School and Ellis Middle School for their work in promoting their school meal programs. INEP "scores" programs based on factors such as varying the vegetables offered, creating a colorful and inviting lunchroom and fostering student and community involvement.
The Board of Edboard of education recognized the Department of Food and Nutrition Services with a proclamation in honor of National School Lunch Week at the Oct. 2 board meeting.