BURLINGTON - - Students at Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary have been eating healthy and learning about lifelong fitness for some time.
The school's efforts to get students off to a good start into adulthood were recognized last week with a "Gold of Distinction" Award from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
Jean Klein, school principal, said the award acknowledges the years of progress that the school has made in promoting healthy behaviors. The school previously has earned the Food and Nutrition Service's Gold Award. The Gold of Distinction Award is a new award created this year.
Submitted Photo - - Pictured with the 'Gold of Distinction' banner presented to Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary School are, from left, Darlene Sanchez, Linda Schloer, Alex Wiese, Mary Ann Bohl, Becky King, Arleen Johnson, Deb Egeland, Caulen Haase, Lori Selfors, Paige Diaz, Dan Sluke, Katrina Billadeau and Jean Klein.
The Gold of Distinction is the highest award and includes a monetary prize of $2,000. Awards go to schools that take specific steps to improve their programs and address childhood obesity as well as meet a rigorous set of criteria related to nutrition and physical activity.
"This is not just a quick fix, but it's been a trend that we have worked toward," Klein said. "I think they (students) are making wiser choices, healthier choices, and we hope they are taking some of what we are trying to teach them with them as they become young adults."
The Food and Nutrition Service's Healthier US School Challenge is a voluntary initiative established in 2004 for schools in the National School Lunch Program.
To get the award, Burlington-Des Lacs had to provide nutrition education, offer a different fruit and vegetable to students every day, maintain a wellness policy, provide physical education and the opportunity for physical activity and adhere to the agency's guidelines for foods served or sold in school outside the lunch program.
Characteristics that made Burlington-Des Lacs stand out included its physical education program, which emphasizes lifelong activity. The school has a fitness center, a cross-country skiing unit and the lunch program offers a salad bar using produce grown in the school garden.
Arleen Johnson, food service manager at the school, said the lunch program uses whole grain foods extensively, from pasta to bread.
"Another whole grain is brown rice, and they love that," she said. "They love the fresh fruits and vegetables."
Johnson said serving healthy meals at school is one way that the school can help busy families ensure that their children are getting the nutrition that they need.
Individually recognized for their work in achieving Gold of Distinction status were physical education teacher Dan Sluke, school parent Lori Selfors, and food service assistants Klein, Mary Ann Bohl and Paige Diaz.