Gwinnett County Public Schools: Striving Happenings In The Suwanee School Clusters

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According to figures found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents from ages 2 to 19 are obese, and since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled. This has been a growing concern among many in the health care industry and parents across the nation. We know, according to many health care professionals, that being overweight can perhaps be the cause of a number of health problems and issues.

But what is the answer to childhood obesity? In short, experts agree that making sure children stay active and eat the right foods is paramount when it comes to helping children maintain a healthy weight. With many children attending school for the better part of the day, the Gwinnett County Public School System is also doing its part to help our children stay healthy and active.

Physical Education
Charles Truett, director of Health and Physical Education, said the more active and healthy the child, the easier it is for the student to learn, so the school system promotes activities to enhance the learning environment.

For elementary school, kindergarten through 5th grade, the state of Georgia mandates the number of hours students should get for physical activity or physicalshutterstock_78013183_opt education, and Truett said Gwinnett County schools meet that requirement. The focus is on skill areas such as throwing and catching, striking with the body (such as soccer and volleyball), and striking with an instrument (such as baseball and tennis) promoting both hand-eye coordination and foot-eye coordination.

For middle school, grades 6th, 7th and 8th, physical education and activities are offered, but there is no state mandated time for activities. Truett said in Gwinnett County schools, a large number of students have some kind of physical education in middle school.
By high school, grades 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, GCPS offers in its required curriculum, Introduction to Health and Introduction to Lifetime Fitness.

Truett added that fitness includes areas such as cardiovascular with aerobic activity, strength and endurance of upper body strength, abdominal strength and leg strength or lower body strength, and flexibility.

A large number of students in Gwinnett take part in organized sports through the school’s athletic programs and clubs, while many students participate in recreational sports offered through the county and other independently owned programs.

Nutrition
When it comes to healthy children, the other side of the equation is nutrition. In general, all children need a well-balanced diet filled with protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy (think food pyramid), and a limited diet when it comes to solid fats and sugar.
The GCPS strives to offer students nutritious meals to students.
Last year GCPS served 21,607,762 student lunches and 10,671,375 student breakfasts with some of the more popular lunchroom foods being:

  •   Whole Grain Pizza
  •   100% Orange Juice
  •   Assorted Side Salads
  •   Spring Water
  •   Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt
  •   Fresh Local Fruits and Vegetables: Apples, Watermelon, Bell Peppers, and Broccoli

shutterstock_100557196_optFor the 2012-2013 school year, GCPS added these new food items to the lunch menu:

  •   Asian Bowls with Lo Mein and Veggies
  •   Baked Sweet Potato Waffle Fries
  •   Banana Yogurt Bars with Fresh Fruit Toppings
  •   Whole Grain Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches
  •   Cuban, Greek, and Hawaiian Specialty Sandwiches
  •   Whole Grain Flat Bread Pizzas
  •   Spicy Grilled Chicken Filet Sandwiches

Just before the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Gwinnett County’s school nutrition professionals were recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture Southeast Regional Office for the partnership the school district established with the Georgia farmers to extend its offerings of healthy and nutritious meals to students called the Farm-to-School initiative and awarded the “USDA Best Practice Award.” Other initiatives include the school system’s vegetarian line, and the offering of all-natural products.

For more information about GCPS, the nutrition program or health and physical education, visit the GCPS website at www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us.

Statistics source: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

BY: Tana Christian Suggs
[email protected]

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