St. Joseph’s wins health awardIndian school honored for change in nutrition and physical activity.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
CHAMBERLAIN — Students and staff at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain were honored Thursday for their hard work at changing nutrition and physical activity practices.
Amid cheers for food service and educational staff, Roger Campbell, the South Dakota Department of Education’s Indian education director, presented the HealthierUS School Challenge Silver Award to the school’s president, the Rev. Stephen Huffstetter.
“I just applaud St. Joseph’s for making efforts to get the school in the right direction,” Campbell said.
Although the students began the school year with nutrition education and more physical activity, the food program took a little longer to get off the ground. Mike Renbarger, St. Joseph’s food service coordinator, said he and his staff worked hard through October, November and December to kick off menu changes in February.
“It was hard for them to adjust, because a lot of the foods (the students) aren’t familiar with,” said Renbarger before the award ceremony. “We’ve increased the (portion) size of fruit and veggies and reduced other items.”
Many of the foods the school now offers include fresh fruits, dark green vegetables like Romaine lettuce and fresh spinach, a salad bar, and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
The award also garners the school $1,000 toward more healthy initiatives. Renbarger said the school plans to use the money to further the nutrition education.
St. Joseph’s is only the second American Indian school to receive an award through the program, and the first to receive it since the implementation of stricter guidelines, according to Mary Kirk, program specialist for Team Nutrition at the South Dakota Department of Education.
St. Joseph’s is not only a school but also a home to 200 students in grades 1-12, and the school had to confront several challenges at the elementary and secondary levels. For example, the HealthierUS Schools Challenge application kit states elementary schools must offer a different fruit every day, whether it is fresh, frozen, canned, dried or 100 percent juice. But to make the grade, St. Joseph’s had to offer fresh fruit at least once during the week.
According to a press release, to be eligible for the challenge, schools must be registered with Team Nutrition, an initiative through the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, offer reimbursable meals that demonstrate healthy menu planning, provide nutrition education to students and adhere to guidelines established by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service for foods served/sold in schools outside the National School Lunch Program.
Schools must also incorporate a certain amount of physical education and nutrition education to qualify. To receive the Silver Award, St. Joseph’s had to incorporate at least 45 minutes of physical activity per week throughout the school year.
Kirk said the school is working toward more physical activity.
Renbarger said the school keeps a close eye on creating a healthy diet for the children who attend St. Joseph’s, because much of the Indian population has issues with diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
“We’re just trying to get things a little bit better for them,” he said. “Hopefully when they go home, they’ll go to the store and buy more fresh food.”
The Power Panther from the HealthierUS School Challenge visits St. Joseph’s Indian School on Thursday in Chamberlain to congratulate students for receiving the program’s Silver Award. Anna Jauhola/Republic