Minnesota Health Commissioner visits Eagan school on "local lunch day"
Visit highlights efforts to improve nutrition and fight childhood obesity
Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger visited Woodland Elementary School in Eagan Thursday to recognize and highlight the school's efforts to improve nutrition and fight obesity.
Ehlinger joined second-graders for the school's "local lunch day," that included fruits, broccoli, and a serving of wheat berry salad made from whole-grain wheat grown locally by Indian Harvest of Bemidji. He visited a classroom to talk about nutrition and to watch a presentation by Indian Harvest Chef Coleen Donnelly, who created the wheat berry salad recipe and specializes in making healthy meals that are popular with kids. Commissioner Ehlinger also saw the school's S.M.A.R.T. (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training) activity room.
Ehlinger told the second-graders that "Lots of people have looked at this and kids who eat breakfast and have physical activity and have art and music do better in school than people who don't have a good breakfast or get physical activity."
Woodland Elementary School in Eagan is one of the many schools partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health to improve the local economy and school lunches by using locally grown foods. The school has taken advantage of several state initiatives, such as Great Trays, Farm to School, and Safe Routes to School. These programs are proven strategies promoted by the Minnesota Health Department's Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which recently submitted a two-year progress report to the Legislature.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades, putting Minnesota children at risk for lifelong struggles with health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. One key to fighting this epidemic is helping kids eat healthier foods. "Obesity is one of the most urgent health challenges facing our state and nation today," Ehlinger said. "To fight, obesity we need to invest in children's nutrition, and Woodland school is a great example of the health department, local public health officials, and schools working together to provide children nutritious food that tastes great."
The SHIP program recently filed a report with the Legislature that found that during the program's first two years, Farm to School efforts are under way to increase access to local produce in at least 367 schools and 22 school districts across Minnesota, serving more than 200,000 students.
In addition, at least 117 schools serving 77,000 students, across the state are actively engaged in implementing Safe Routes to School, which increases opportunities and support for youth to walk or bike to school.
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