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GOOD NUTRITION AND J. ACKERMAN COLES SCHOOL A WINNING COMBINATION
School Gets Visit From NY Jets Player As Part of Eat Right, Move More Program(SCOTCH PLAINS) – It is not unusual to see a student at J. Ackerman Coles Elementary School in Scotch Plains lunching on nachos with turkey taco meat, a chef salad or a yogurt with baby carrots and light dressing. For this commitment to healthy eating, New York Jets cornerback Drew Coleman today paid a visit to the school to applaud administrators for their nutritional policies and encourage the students to enjoy the nutritious foods offered in the cafeteria.
The Jets and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture joined together for the Eat Right, Move More campaign, which urges Garden State students to eat the healthy foods in school that adhere to the state’s new school nutrition policy. The program was announced last year by Governor Jon S. Corzine, who has been a major supporter of healthy eating for all New Jersey citizens.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm among school districts in the state over our new nutrition guidelines that require that students be offered more nutritious foods and be provided with health and wellness education,” said Emma Davis-Kovacs, Director of the Division of Food and Nutrition. “We commend J. Ackerman Coles Elementary School for their healthy menu and programs that promote wellness.”
J. Ackerman Coles Elementary School was one of five schools chosen to receive Jets player visits as part of the Eat Right, Move More contest, which challenged New Jersey schools to submit their meal menus to determine the five schools with the most creative meal selections and that have made the most significant changes to improve their school nutrition environment.
Coleman, now in his second season with the Jets, said he knows the benefits of healthy eating and exercise from his years of playing football.
“Eating well and exercising are two of the most important lessons we can teach our future generations,” said Coleman. “That’s why I am honored to be here today to discuss the importance of nutrition and exercise. A healthy lifestyle helps all of us achieve our dreams no matter what we hope to accomplish in our lives.”
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District began the school year 100 percent compliant with the state’s Model School Nutrition Policy, a full year ahead of the deadline of September 2007. They not only meet the criteria of the policy, school food service officials say they exceed the requirements for drinks and ice cream for the middle and high school level. The district also sponsors an A-Plus snack program in which all snacks must have 8 grams of fat or less or 2 grams of saturated fat or less to be served at any of their schools.
Dr. Deborah Evans, principal of Coles Elementary School, said her school adopted good nutrition and wellness programs six years ago, and now, it is deep and embedded in the school culture that they care about nutrition and fitness.
“It is so important to help children learn to care for their bodies and sound nutrition and fitness set the foundation,” said Evans. “We are shaping habits for a lifetime. It is easier for children to learn if they have healthy habits and feel good about themselves.”
J. Ackerman Coles School has 550 kindergarten through fourth-graders. Each year, the school hosts a special field day, All Play All Day, featuring a variety of fitness events. The students and teachers have participated as a school in walks to raise awareness for different causes. And, the school nurse recently held a contest for fourth graders, who had to write essays about what a healthy lifestyle means to them. In addition, students are encouraged to bring in healthy snacks from home to eat during the school day.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture works closely with the state Department of Education in providing nutrition and wellness education.
“What has happened at J. Ackerman Coles and the other winning schools shows that with a little effort and creativity, you can change a nutritional culture,” said New Jersey Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy. “That’s a major benefit for children now in the classroom, and it impacts their overall health and well-being in adulthood. By offering kids a choice of healthy foods and showing them that healthy food can taste good, too, you are providing them with a nutrition roadmap for life.”
The Model School Nutrition Policy is the most comprehensive in the nation, covering pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, and limits fat and sugar content in foods offered in a la carte lines, snack bars and vending machines, school stores and as part of on-campus fund-raisers. For more information on the policy, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/childadult/school_model.html.
To be eligible to apply for the Eat Right, Move More program, schools must participate in the national school lunch program, a federally funded program to ensure all children have access to a wholesome meal during the school day, which is administered by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
As a professional football team that plays in New Jersey, the Jets regularly promote youth health, fitness, and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Over the past six years, the Jets and their charitable foundation donated or raised more than $6 million to promote youth health, fitness, and education.
The other four winning schools in the Eat Right, Move More contest will be visited by Jets players in May. They are: Sandman Consolidated Elementary School in Lower Township; Heywood Avenue Elementary School, Orange; Springfield Township Elementary School; and Brielle Elementary School.