Healthy eating a decade in the making at Fraser schools

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 11, 2015

FRASER — As numerous health initiatives continue to attract national attention, including First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and numerous food-related documentaries, the goal is to encourage individuals to eat right at a young age.

Many children and families have transformed their eating habits through proper education on the topic, and some are striving to reach future goals.

And a difference noticed in schools in the past decade is that positive strides are being made in and out of the classroom, focusing on healthier lunches and more physical activity.

At a Feb. 2 United Way nutrition summit at Ford Field in Detroit, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow called on community leaders and advocates to make sure children have access to fresh and nutritious meals.

The summit explored different ways community leaders, parents, school administrators and others can work together to address challenges when it comes to health.

Fraser Public Schools has been on the forefront of changing the narrative, said Community Relations Coordinator Nicole Malak. From redesigning cafeterias to revamping menus, a proactive approach has proved beneficial in the schools’ environments.

“Fraser Public Schools offers a wide selection of lunch options every day for students at all levels,” Malak said.

“Additionally, at all levels, students are provided a fruit and vegetable bar to ensure all students have access to healthy fruit and vegetable options for a nutritionally balanced meal.”

Since Fraser’s school lunch program is a federally funded program, it must adhere to federal guidelines administered by the USDA. The district, according to Malak, goes above and beyond those set guidelines.

An integral part of the conversation occurs between parents and school administrators, with parents offering continual feedback and involving themselves in the overall process.

“At the elementary level, parents are involved in the process of selecting their student’s meals,” Malak said. “A menu with options for the entire month is sent to parents in advance, allowing parents the opportunity to preselect what their child will eat. At the secondary level, the Food Service Department offers an annual survey, allowing students to have the opportunity to share their opinions on the Food Service Program and the meals offered.

“Additionally, Fraser Public Schools uses the Meal Magic System that allows parents the opportunity to not only pay online, but to monitor what their child is eating.”

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more than just eating healthy, though. Physical activity goes hand in hand with a healthier living.

Fraser’s elementary students participate in Health Education and Resource Training, or HEART. Middle school students study health and nutrition in life skills classes, and many of the schools have public speakers and assemblies that involve the discussion of healthy living that can be applied both at school and at home.

Fraser High School has “workout Wednesdays” for physical education participants, and the classes focus on lifelong fitness and aerobic activities. Also, all 10th-grade students take a health class to better understand the nuances of fitness and nutrition.

The Fraser Food Service Program continues to expose students to new and different food options, keeping a surprise factor alive while instilling more choice. Free samples are also commonplace at community events.

Fraser’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Recently, five elementary buildings received the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Bronze Award due to efforts to improve health for students and the general community. The challenge is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.

“We recognize the importance of providing healthy breakfast and lunch options for our students,” Malak said. “For some students, they may consume most or all of their meals while at school. With this in mind, our district is committed to providing healthy and great-tasting options for students to adequately fuel themselves throughout the day.”