Healthy eating habits build learning skills

Welcome to Clavet, Saskatchewan.  Population 386.

It may be small but it is mighty.  Every day the village triples in size when over 650 students are bussed in from surrounding centres.

“The bus rides are very long,” said Violet Dilsner, an educational assistant at Clavet School, “After sitting on the bus for an hour they’re hungry.”

“We used to have a pop machine that was sold out all the time,” said Carolyn Hoppe, Clavet’s Public Health Nurse.

The school needed to make healthy eating habits a priority.    The answer: the Clavet Kids in the Kitchen program. Grade 5 students are taught how to eat healthy  by providing kids with healthy recipes, safe food handling skills and preparing food for the school’s breakfast program.

Canada is in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity.  According to the Public Health Agency of Canada between 1978/79 and 2004, the prevalence of obesity and overweight children in Ontario increased by about 70 per cent. 1

Alarming statistics such as these are prompting more schools and school boards to adopt healthy eating programs such as this one.

“The pop machine is gone and we have smoothies that we sell,” Hoppe added, they don’t have to convince the kids to enjoy healthier choices, “that’s what they want.”

Dilsner explained the experience has also led to children enjoying new found flavours.

“Some of the kids say, ‘I’ve never tried broccoli before and actually, it’s pretty good!’”

The school was able to expand the program after winning $10,000 in the 2014 CST Inspired Minds Learning Project.  The committee also purchased a brand new stainless steel refrigerator to properly store fresh food.

“That will last this school a lifetime,” said Dilsner. “Now we’re able to serve the kids in the morning, all kinds of healthy snacks…go get some food before class and be ready to learn.”

Students are also sharing their new skills and healthy eating knowledge by volunteering with the breakfast program and acting as peer leaders for younger students.

Educators are noticing the difference healthy eating habits are making in more ways than one.

“I had a grade 12 student come and give me a hug and tell me that we made a total difference in his life at school,” said Dilsner.  “He gets here early in the morning for extra-curricular activities.  He doesn’t have time for breakfast but because of the program that we’ve been working on, he can now eat and he’s ready for class when school starts.”

With students living so far away from the school, the distance often makes it difficult to engage families in volunteering.  This has changed in the past year.

“The Kids in the Kitchen piece not only helps to get that message out to families and make connections between home and school,” said Brian Matisz Clavet School’s principal, “it helps us sustain a lot of the programming that we have and getting those kids excited about volunteering and helping out.”

Matisz added, rallying everyone together behind the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project led to an unforgettable moment for all involved; including capturing  interest for their bid to win with the local news organization to get votes.  You can watch the story here.

“It was very much a unifying force for our school, our staff and our community,” explained Matisz.

1 Shields M, Tremblay MS. Canadian childhood obesity estimates based on WHO, IOTF and CDC cut-points. Int J PediatrObes, 2010 May 3;5(3):265-273

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer is a blogger for Parentwise Canada and a former CST employee. Jennifer loves getting to the heart of a good story. As a former television news reporter, she knows great stories are shared when people truly 'connect’. Jennifer also enjoys spending time with family and friends. A proud auntie to her niece and nephews, she can be found carpooling or chasing them on the playground! You can also catch her on the volleyball court, on Social or planning her next adventure!

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