by Morgan Smith
Creating habits takes consistency. Creating good, healthy habits takes commitment.
That’s why students, staff and families from Smithfield Elementary School committed to a 30-day challenge last month to whip their bodies and minds into shape and make a change for the better.
The parent-teacher group at Smithfield is making an effort to promote healthy kids with healthy habits at their school. With the first ever 30 Days of Healthy Choices initiative, the Smithfield community spent most of February and early March learning what it means to live a healthy life and creating healthy habits – both in eating and exercising through various events and competitions at the school.
“We just want all kids to know how important it is to just make the right choices and be healthy,” Kelly Ingram, the health initiative coordinator for the school, said. “We are just trying to incorporate the whole healthy initiative for every kid because we’ve found that if kids are learning it, then they are taking it back home and telling their parents.” Ingram also is part of the school’s parent-teacher group.
Families were well equipped to make the change, thanks to events ranging from a family winter dance to a Get Out and Play Spirit Day.
There also was the Healthy Lunch Challenge, sponsored by Earth Fare, where students received points for having food on their plates from different food groups.
“The number of vegetables that the cafeteria manager had to order spiked during the Healthy Lunch Challenge, and it’s still spiking even though the challenge is over,” Suzy Owens, the parent-teacher group president, said.
Owens said the group pushed for the initiative because staff at the school don’t necessarily have the time or resources to promote healthy habits, although they would like to.
The teachers and principal were very much behind the initiative, Owens explained.
“If the PTA could help take our healthy initiatives to the next level” we could help take some pressure off the teachers because “the staff doesn’t have the capacity to do it,” she said.
To wrap up the initiative Saturday, March 10, Owens said the group did a large culminating event to celebrate new habits and healthy choices students and families have recently created.
Traditionally, the group has put on a spring festival, filled with crafts, ice cream and cotton candy.
“Almost all schools do some traditional event – we’ve been doing that for years,” Owens said. “But if we’re going to have a healthy festival, we’re not putting cotton candy” and other junk food out. Owens explained for years schools have been telling students to be healthy, but parent-teacher groups contradict that by having carnivals and events where healthy choices are few and far between. “We were sending mixed messages,” Owens added.
So after a small, but successful, fun run event last year, the group decided to take a bigger step where the whole community could be involved with the I Run This School Smithfield Elementary Family Fun Run & Festival. Participants could run or walk in a tot trot, a one-mile race or a 5k race.
“Not everybody is a runner, so we wanted to have something for everyone,” Owens added.
With more inflatables than ever before, sports stations, a healthy choices expo and local vendors such as Earth Fare, Planet Fitness and TCBY, toddlers, kids and parents alike participated in all kinds of active events.