It’s in the food, the school activities, and the students’ fresh energy: Memorial High School in West New York, Hudson County, is equally dedicated to building active bodies as they are active minds. It is so evident that the school recently received the first ever Gold Medal Recognition for their exemplary work in the Healthy Schools Program, run through the national Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG).
Memorial High School began working with AHG in 2006 and immediately began tackling the issues contributing to childhood obesity, namely junk food and sedentary lifestyles. One of the school’s first tasks was to revamp their school lunch offerings. Among the changes the cafeteria has made in its menu are items such as whole wheat pizza, ready-to-order salads, and baked (instead of fried) French fries.
School administrators are taking a more proactive stance in the students’ activity level as well. Since the program began, both students and teachers are encouraging one another to get up from their desks and work out. Memorial students reported feeling better about themselves and experiencing clearer thinking after exercise. Before and after school exercise programs are offered for both students and faculty. As of April 2010, over 45 faculty members were participating in staff fitness boot camp classes.
Memorial hopes other schools will follow their lead. Food Services Director Sal Valenza recently reached out to the broader community by holding a “Healthier Food Fair,” an all-day event in which food service directors from area schools and food vendors exchanged ideas about how to deliver healthier lunches to students. District Supervisor of Physical Education John Fraraccio, who has seen firsthand the benefits of the program, calling it a “total culture change,” is working with AHG Relationship Manager Karen Buonocore to spread the word to other schools.
Over 9000 schools are currently members of the AHG’s Healthy Schools Program, supported by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation. For more information, please visit http://www.healthiergeneration.org.