Just 1 Question: Healthy eating in Arcola schools

Just 1 Question: Healthy eating in Arcola schools

Most Arcola junior high students prefer healthy food to junk food come lunchtime.

So discovered a group of seventh- and eighth-graders when they surveyed their peers. The group's next task: making healthy eating a reality at school.

Through an organization called Our American Voice — which teaches students about social justice and how to make change in their community — the Arcola kids have spent the past year studying what it might take to bring a salad bar to their school cafeteria. They researched Illinois school nutrition laws, asked classmates about their favorite vegetables, even explored potential partnership opportunities with other school organizations and the local community.

Then, last week, the students put together a presentation and asked the school board for permission to implement the salad bar in their cafeteria. As they await an answer, Nicole Lafond met up with the kids and asked: What did you learn about healthy eating and igniting change through this project?


"We did some research that showed if we got a salad bar, the students in our school would be more healthy and energetic. I helped talk with the lunch ladies about the idea and where we could put it in the cafeteria."


"It's harder than it looks to get things done in the school and people take it for granted. We've been working really hard. It's a journey, but we're getting there. We also learned it's better for students, and more independent for them to have choices about the food they're eating.

"Our school was big on the Michelle Obama healthy eating stuff and I think it's good we're trying to keep it going."


"I've learned that you can make a change in your school and other people's lives and that healthy foods can help reduce the risk of heart and liver failure and other health problems, like diabetes and obesity. I hope we can convince the board that this is important."


"Healthy eating is really important, especially if you're in fitness sports because if you don't eat healthy now, it could cause a lot of problems in the future. I'm talking to the board about our salad bowl and how we chose each of the items we want to include."


"It is hard to get this up and running. It's really hard to get all this stuff prepared. It may not seem like a lot — all of this stuff that we're doing — but it's really freaking us out a little bit.

"We surveyed a bunch of students and kids said they would rather have a nice salad than a lot of the other things at the a la carte. If the school board approves this, I'll be in charge of the fundraisers, coming up with where we will be hold them and what we'll be selling. So I'll be in charge of money."


"We learned that if we put in something more healthy (at lunch), the kids will eat it more and they won't go home starving. We learned that healthy food can help our body — like, it doesn't have as many calories as other foods with sugar."


"Making school changes is a long process. There's a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot of people to get involved, but it really helps bring our community together for a better cause for our kids. (This project) is It's very student-led, they've worked really hard."

Have a question you'd like education reporter NICOLE LAFOND to ask of students, teachers or administrators? Our inbox is open for submissions — send an email to nlafond@news-gazette.com.

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (1):Education


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Orbiter wrote on April 21, 2017 at 10:04 am

     Good for them!!!  Even though the question sounds stilted (igniting change?) and the answers sound prepared, they've got the right idea here.  I hope the actions of these students match their ideals, when the healthful options become available.  School foodservice workers will be skeptical, but there really isn't much nutrition in the canned peas & carrots that children have been rejecting for generations anyway.

     I know when I bring a platter of crudités to a party, these fresh veggies disappear long before the bags of chips and puffs and other convenience snacks that others bring, so there really is hope.  The Important point is that healthful options need to be available, before anyone can eat them.

     Sometimes when short of time, one simply must choose between a fast-food meal or  fasting.  Unfortunately the few healthful options out there are not readily found.  For example, Wendy's will (usually) substitute apple slices in place of fries, if asked.  It has baffled me why most pizza or wings or burger establishments refuse to keep some frozen mixed vegetables on-hand that can be quickly heated in the microwave.  I know I'd rather have that than potato or other fried sides.  The cost would be trivial.  And when traveling, for example, people simply can't prepare their own.

     Bravo to Panda Express for making bountiful steamed vegetables a side option in place of fried rice or greasy noodles.  And three cheeers to these Arcola kids for fomenting change in their school!!!!