VUSN School-based Nutrition Program Honored at White House

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Fall-Hamilton Elementary School was honored at a reception last fall hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C. The event was part of the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Program, an initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture that sets benchmarks encouraging schools to create healthier school environments through increased physical activity and better nutrition.

Benchmark levels are bronze, silver and gold.  Fall-Hamilton has earned the bronze and silver benchmarks and is working on the gold this school year.

“The key for us has been adopting a coordinated school health model,” said Theresa Hook, RN, a community-based case worker for Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s Faculty Practice, who attended the event.  “It means that you must involve the students and their families, teachers, school health services, nutrition personnel, school custodians and mental health professionals in such a way that the students can be the best they can be and have the best chance at learning.”

Fall-Hamilton Elementary is a Davidson County Metro school that has 325 students in grades pre-K through fourth –  87 percent are below the poverty line and depend on the school for two meals each school day.
Through a series of community partnerships and grants, the school has been able to provide healthier food options to children, including offering only whole grain foods and providing fruits and vegetables for afternoon snacks three days a week.  The school’s morning public address announcements include a healthy tip for the day.

Hook and VUSN Community Health Nurse Practitioner students measure the students’ body mass index (BMI) each year and the healthy trend is improving.

For instance, in the 2003-2004 school year 42 percent of students had an unhealthy BMI, which was down to 34 percent last school year.

“Starting children eating healthy and being physically active at an early age can set them up for a lifetime of good health.  They are malleable and interested to learn,” said Hook.