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Food and Fitness for Families

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Kelly Thompson, GIRESD Grants Project Manager
As of May 2016, just under 1.5 million people in the state of Michigan receive assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Of these 1.5 million, over 600,000 are children.  This means that one in four students in our schools live below the poverty line.  The Mid-Michigan region's SNAP population falls slightly below the state average at approximately 16 percent.  

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) provide grant opportunities for local non-profit organizations and intermediate school districts to support nutrition education and physical activity promotion to SNAP eligible families. This year, Gratiot-Isabella RESD received $185,000 to provide this programming to students in Gratiot, Isabella, Midland, Clare, and Gladwin counties.

Gratiot-Isabella RESD nutrition staff will be working with 20 elementary schools and over 175 classrooms, grades K-6, to teach students about eating healthy and being more physically active. Students will receive nutrition education once a month for 35-40 minutes over the course of the school year through various nutrition curriculums such as Cooking with Kids, Michigan Harvest of the Month, Michigan Model for Health, and Rec-Connect. Grades 3-6 students will have the opportunity to participate in cooking demonstrations during their monthly nutrition lesson where they get to create and do their own taste-testing.  

In addition to nutrition lessons, we will be working diligently with physical education teachers to train students in the Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum (EPEC) where they will be implementing nutritionally-enhanced lessons in their gym classes. Program staff has also started working with local food service directors to complete the Smarter Lunchroom Assessment, an initiative to make free or low cost changes in the cafeteria and throughout the school.  Hopefully, it will to encourage students and faculty to make healthy food choices.

Over the past 3 years, GI-RESD has seen a significant increase in student and parent behavior towards eating healthy and being physically active. Through classroom lessons, physical activity demonstrations, family resources, and cafeteria influence, we can continue to encourage our students and faculty to make healthier choices and live a healthier lifestyle.