School, hospital partner to promote healthy lifestyles, ways for students

AMSTERDAM — St. Mary’s Institute partnered with St. Mary’s Healthcare to celebrate National Nutrition Awareness Day on Thursday, to kick off an ongoing schoolwide 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go to promote healthful living.

Students sampled four different kinds of fresh fruit and veggie smoothies and could try a full glass of their favorite flavor–donated by St. Mary’s Healthcare and prepared by the school wellness committee.

The event was held during lunch periods–10:45 to 11:15 a.m. (pre-kindergarten and middle school), 11:15 to 1:45 a.m. (grades kindergarten to second), and 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (grades three to five).

“We are a small enough school where we can make real change happen,” said development coordinator Lauren de Jong. “Launching 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! at our school is the spark needed to make that change. We want our students to be the best students they can be, and that starts with being happy and healthy.

“Starting this month and continuing through the end of the year, we will be taking major steps to help our students make healthier choices, get more physical activity, add healthier options at lunch and snack time, and even start the day off with a morning stretch program–just to name a few.”

5-2-1-0 means five fruits and veggies a day, two fewer hours of recreational screen time, one hour or more of physical activity daily, and zero sugary drinks.

Besides the smoothies, grades three to six are also wearing pedometers every day to measure and increase the number of steps they take each day, and grade two is tracking fluid intake, replacing sugary drinks with water. The eighth-graders will seek to strengthen themselves using plank exercise, which involve holding themselves in various positions for increasing periods of time.

Every grade will adopt at least one new wellness activity from now until the end of the school year.

A half-hour stretching time every Wednesday from 7:15 to 7:45 a.m. will be held for students, teachers and parents in the gym, starting March 7. The school plans afterschool exercise, tennis and running every Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. The athletic instructor is also increasing student physical activity and plans to introduce new sports. St. Mary’s is already participating in jumping robe to raise money for the American Heart Association. The school will hold a dance for parents and children from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 16 in the gym. On Earth Day, April 22, the school will hold a walk, run and bicycle event at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville.

St. Mary’s Healthcare will provide support such as a visiting nutritionist to teach students how to make healthy food and drink choices and offering wellness tips for parents each week through the school’s e-newsletter.

The students have already been pretested by the school nurse for weight, body mass index and subjective feelings of well-being, positive body image and fitness. They will be post-tested at year’s end.

“I think we will see a change coming by the end of the year,” said de Jong. “We want our students to be the best they can be.”

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