Harrison Co school launches new strategies to fight obesity

WOOLMARKET, MS (WLOX) - Schools across South Mississippi are trying to come up with new and creative ways to encourage students to get up and move. Every Mississippi school has adopted its own Wellness Policy that includes a fitness program, nutrition education, and healthier lunches and snacks.

One Harrison County school is making some changes this year to fight obesity in the cafeteria and in the gym.

On Wednesday, the cafeteria staff at North Woolmarket Elementary and Middle School pulled out a tray of fries. They were hot and fresh out of the oven. But can the baked fries please the palates of the young food critics?

When asked if she noticed a difference, third grader Ryleigh Aaron replied, "Not really. It tastes good."

Her friend Anna Hokamp said the fries actually tasted better.

This year, North Woolmarket removed the fryers in the kitchen and installed two Combi-Ovens. The large ovens can bake, broil, steam, and poach.

"The food's healthier and they don't even realize it," said Wanda Salley, Child Nutrition Director for the Harrison County School District.

Salley said there is another change this year that affects cafeterias across the country.  Students are required to pick-up at least half a cup of a fruit or vegetable with their meals.

"Now, the state of Mississippi and the whole country and our president's wife, Michelle Obama, they're all interested in helping the kids to be healthier and learn better," said Salley.

Third grader Blake Gollott ate all of the broccoli on his tray.

"Because it makes me healthy and strong, so I could lift weights up when I grow up," Blake said.

North Woolmarket students are also stepping it up to burn calories while building muscle strength. They are encouraged to get between 200-250 minutes of movement every week.  That is well above the federal minimum requirement of 150-minutes.

Along with an aerobics routine, the school offers a variety of activities, like archery, to get students interested in exercising.  Even school fund raisers, like Hoops for Heart, include some type of physical activity.

"We've got to show them nutrition. We've got to get them physically active. And the more they're introduced to it, the more, hopefully, it'll affect them and they'll have a better lifestyle," said Salley.

The Harrison County School District is also trying to encourage teachers and principals to incorporate more physical activity into their classrooms on a daily basis, and to hire more certified PE teachers.

"At North Woolmarket, they're going above and beyond and they actually have three certified PE teachers here in this school," said Salley. "They've got a really good program in their PE department and we're really proud of them for that."

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