Williamsburg, VA School Promotes Healthy Lifestyles

Williamsburg, VA School Promotes Healthy Lifestyles

Mon 24 Sep 2012

Story by The Food Revolution Team

PTA sponsored Healthy Lifestyles Program successfully grows a great idea into a model program

Williamsburg Virginia is known for many things; the Colonial Williamsburg historic area, Thomas Jefferson's alma mater the College of William & Mary, and Busch Gardens The Old Country. But, thanks to a local elementary school - Williamsburg is also becoming synonymous with healthy schools. Matoaka Elementary, a K-5 public school of approximately 700 children, is making headlines with their PTA sponsored Healthy Lifestyles Program.

Operated by health conscience school moms and PTA members Michelle Alexander and Tryna Fitzpatrick, Matoaka has successfully grown a great idea into a model program that is leading the way in promoting a healthy school lifestyle. Their work includes a Local Food Initiative and farm-to-school agreement with a local supplier, Kelrae Farms who supplies fresh produce twice a month. Funded with the help of the PTA, local produce is included as an option on the school lunch line and to encourage students to try the healthy offerings, the PTA Healthy Lifestyles Committee is on hand to offer samples and answer questions.

Last year, everything from locally grown and freshly prepared spaghetti squash to kale was offered. This year, they plan to kick off the program with red potatoes and peppers.

Local Food Initiative

The Local Food Initiative is just one of the many health and wellness programs at Matoaka. Michelle and Tryna also created the Golden Apple Awards which honors recipients who are “caught being healthy” (or, nominated by parents and teachers). Winners are treated to a visit by the school mascot and given a certificate to hang in their classroom. Previous winners have included a kindergarten teacher who had a “healthy red, white & pink” Valentines classroom party featuring strawberries and yogurt instead of candy, a PE teacher who organized a kid-friendly Fun Run, and even the cafeteria staff for all the work they do in support of the Local Food Initiative.

Healthy Lifestyles Week & Classroom Cooking Demonstrations

Healthy Lifestyles Week is held annually at Matoka in conjunction with the National PTA's Healthy Lifestyle Month in November. During the week, they organize a variety of events including classroom cooking demonstrations where local restaurant chefs teach the students to prepare fun and healthy dishes. Last year they made sweet potato soup using the locally grown produce and it was a big hit. The recipe appears on the Matoaka PTA website .

In addition to these contributions, the Matoaka Healthy Lifestyles Committee is also working to reduce the cupcakes and cookies that are often associated with school events, holidays and parties.

They plan to publish a Healthy Recipe Idea Book that offers a quick reference to help parents find better alternatives when, for instance, making a special treat to share with the class for a birthday. Tryna and Michelle's influence does not stop with the students and parents, at a recent school movie night, they offered corkscrew apples and homemade strawberry smoothies for sale instead of candy and chips. They also encourage the Matoaka's Dad's Club to change the annual "Dad's & Donuts" breakfast to "Dad's & Bagels".

Besides the Healthy Lifestyles Committee, Matoaka has a strong and dedicated staff and PTA who have all worked hard to improve the health and wellness of their students through more great initiatives including a thriving school garden and family fitness nights.

These examples are just a few of the great things happening at Matoaka, an example of what happens when passionate and dedicated people work together.

The Food Revolution Team


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