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Wellness program boasting big gains

Some grumbled when pop disappeared from Moorhead public school vending machines this fall. There might have been a few raised eyebrows when the wholegrain hamburger buns and pizza crusts hit the cafeterias.

Some grumbled when pop disappeared from Moorhead public school vending machines this fall. There might have been a few raised eyebrows when the wholegrain hamburger buns and pizza crusts hit the cafeterias.

But students have mostly come to embrace the changes dictated by the Moorhead School District's wellness policy, said Director of Human Resources Ron Nielsen in his first report on how the policy has fared to the Moorhead School Board Monday.

The district came up with the policy 1½ years ago to meet a federal mandate.

"Overall, I think we're doing very well," Nielsen said. "It takes some time for the idea of wellness to get moving. Old habits of unhealthy eating and not exercising are hard to break."

Based on input from principals, school nurses, physical education teachers and Moorhead Public Schools Food Service Director Mary Bonemeyer, the report found full compliance with most policy goals and partial compliance with the rest.

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On the nutrition front, the district's food service started serving reduced-fat salad dressings, added romaine to the nutritionally inferior iceberg variety and replaced 2-percent-fat milk with 1 percent.

Nielsen said the service has seen a spike in business since the healthy makeover.

"I am absolutely astonished by the quality of the menu and the success of this program," School Board member William Tomhave said.

"We're a big success story as far as providing nutritious food at a low cost," Nielsen said after the meeting.

He said finding time for more physical activity at school - the other element of the wellness equation - has been more challenging with the many demands on students' time.

The report said teachers can do a better job of giving students short physical activity breaks between lessons and classes. It also called on teachers to set aside more time for touting healthy food choices and asking students to steer away from using unhealthy treats as rewards for good behavior.

A new district wellness committee will meet early next year to determine ways to build on the gains.

As board member and committee member Carol Ladwig put it, "If you're eating healthy, you learn better."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529 Wellness program boasting big gains Mila Koumpilova 20071127

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