|E-News June 26, 2018|
Sligo Creek ES Wins School Food Improvement Award
Real Food for Kids – Montgomery was proud to award the School Food Improvement Award this year to Sligo Creek Elementary School (SCES). Across many different dimensions and with the participation of many individuals and committees, SCES has been incredibly active over the last several years in improving the food and wellness environment for its students.
The first improvements started with SCES' principal, Diantha Swift. Unlike many schools where cafeteria snack purchases have gone unchecked, Ms. Swift saw that kids weren’t eating their food in favor of snacks, and years ago reduced a la carte options to 100% juice and ice cream on Fridays only.
A Wellness Committee was formed at SCES about 3 years ago, and in 2016 conducted a parent survey, which led to improvements in after-school snacks offered at Kids Co, the school’s aftercare provider, and the addition of cheese sticks as an a la carte option as well as hummus and pita chips as an alternative vegetarian/vegan entrée. Devi Rambarran, the Cafeteria Manager, has also been helpful in working with families who wished to block purchases of chocolate milk, a la carte items, or other special requests from parents, and in offering a beautiful array of fruits and vegetables. In addition, this year the Wellness Committee sent out a list of the a la carte items offered and informed parents of their right to block purchases of these items as well as chocolate milk for their children.
After the PTA signed the Healthy Kids PTA Pledge in May of 2014, Ms. Swift also worked with the Wellness Committee and PTA leadership to implement a healthier snack policy for the lower grades (in which parents bring snacks for the whole class). Parents were informed of the policy in their start-of-the-year packets, which was reinforced in an all-school email from Ms. Swift, listing appropriate healthy snacks. Ms. Swift has also been responsive to reports of teachers rewarding children with unhealthy food in the classroom and has repeatedly reached out to teachers to remind them that the practice is not acceptable at SCES.
The school has also participated for 3 years in the 5 for 5 Challenge (where kids are challenged to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for 5 days), each year working to have more and more kids involved. During the second year, the Wellness Committee gave out samples of new and unusual fruits and vegetables to all kids at lunch while giving them a 5 for 5 sticker to encourage them to sign up. The Committee installed a water bottle refill station in the cafeteria with the proceeds. The following year, the committee distributed 5 for 5 tracking sheets to every student and asked the teacher whose class turned in the most sheets to give them a healthy class-level reward. They then used some of the proceeds to purchase posters warning kids about the dangers of added sugar.
Yaye Diop, a parent at SCES, wellness committee member and an RFKM Board member has also been active in helping to bring healthier events to SCES, singlehandedly organizing healthy food for several events, even cooking some of it herself.
Incredible work to improve the food and wellness environment at SCES has also been spearheaded by the Outdoor Classroom (under the leadership of Debbie Boger) and Recess Committees (under the leadership of Chris Richardson). In 2012, in conjunction with Silver Spring International Middle School, and with the help of Montgomery County’s Dept. of Environmental Protection, an 850 square foot native perennial garden to attract butterflies and other pollinators was planted in a previously unused interior courtyard.
Each year more garden beds were installed, as was a large stage and seating, with parent volunteers running fall and spring vegetable planting lessons for each grade, followed by a spring harvest “salad party.” In addition, the Outdoor Classroom committee worked with the PTA to form an Education Foundation, which gives a grant each year to hire an Outdoor Classroom Coordinator. Having a paid coordinator work with teachers in the gardens has allowed a significant increase in student use of the space and curriculum-based lessons such as the fourth graders’ Native American gardens during their Native American unit, and fifth graders’ colonial kitchen gardens during their unit on the colonies. Most recently, the Outdoor Classroom Coordinator has started a Garden Club.
And to promote movement during the school day, the Recess Committee has been involved in numerous activities, including tireless snow clearing of the blacktop to allow for outdoor recess in the winter, recruitment of volunteers to play with the kids and teach kickball, soccer, tennis, yoga and creative play with playground equipment during recess and after school, and weekly restocking of the recess equipment. They have also encouraged all classroom teachers, with the help of recess paraeducator staff, to implement movement-oriented websites (GoNoodle, Zoomba) and activities during indoor recess and in 2017 participated in a multi-school advocacy campaign that resulted in county funds for a pilot project to repair/improve the recess playfields at five downcounty elementary schools, including SCES.
SCES serves as a real inspiration to other schools that want to improve their food and wellness environments and RFKM is proud to give them the award this year.
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Real Food for Kids - Montgomery is a grassroots parent and student advocacy group working to promote whole, real, local, sustainable and nutrient-rich foods in the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and is a chapter of Real Food for Kids.
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