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Fewer cupcakes, more 'fun runs' for students MORE INFO
Area schools singled out for efforts to instill good health habits in children.

 Thornburg Middle School Principal Kirk Tower tries to set a healthy example for students by snacking on fruit and drinking lots of water.
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Date published: 6/1/2008

BY DONYA CURRIE

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

The smell of chicken wings wafted from the library at Massaponax High School during a recent Thursday afternoon faculty meeting, where health-conscious Principal Joe Rodkey also offered a fruit tray and bottled water to his teachers.

Rodkey's school, along with Chancellor Elementary and Thornburg Middle, was one of three Spotsylvania County public schools to win a Pathway to Wellness Excellence Award recently for doing the best job complying with the county's wellness policy.

The policy--like similar ones around the region and the country--is designed to combat obesity and instill good lifelong health habits in kids during their school years.

Throughout the Fredericksburg region, school staffs are working to provide healthier food choices both in the lunchroom and at school parties, and to offer more physical activity options, both in P.E. classes and in after-school clubs.

In Fredericksburg, for example, Hugh Mercer Elementary students recently participated in an after-school run promoted as a tie-in to the recent Marine Corps Historic Half-Marathon.

And in Stafford County, the Park Ridge Elementary PTO hosted a family fun run and walk on a recent Saturday to promote the value of a healthy lifestyle for the whole family.

In Spotsylvania County, wellness dietitian Nancy Farrell recently evaluated her county's schools to see how they're complying with Spotsylvania's wellness policy. The results provide a glimpse at how area schools are trying to create a culture of good health for students to grow up in.

Every Spotsylvania school scored average or better in Farrell's evaluation. But none stood out more than Massaponax High, Chancellor Elementary and Thornburg Middle.

BUCKING TRENDS

At Chancellor Elementary, school leaders turned away fundraising ideas that didn't comply with nutritional guidelines, Farrell said. That may not sound noteworthy, but it is because school fundraisers have been almost inextricably linked to food-- often the fatty and sugary variety.

Thornburg Middle won praise in part because its physical education department has long worked toward innovative ways to get the students moving. The school has a horizontal climbing wall and encourages fun yet un-intimidating activities such as horseshoes and shuffleboard.


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School wellness policies, which set guidelines for nutrition and physical activity, are required for every school system that participates in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program. The goal is to help shrink an ever-increasing American waistline through efforts at the school level. Nearly 31 percent of Virginians aged 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, according to the National Survey of Children's Health. To read more on childhood obesity in Virginia, see nschdata.org/con tent/ObesityReportCards.aspx.