By Susan Johnson
The community will vote April 2 on a $92.5 million school bond issue. The bond will be used to improve school facilities, enhance technology, and expand Career and Technical Educational opportunities. As a coalition committed to improving physical activity and nutrition in Douglas County, LiveWell Lawrence would like to highlight aspects of the school bond issue that relate to physical activity and healthy eating among children attending Lawrence public schools.
LiveWell wants schools to promote physical activity, not only through formal physical education classes, but also throughout the school day. Experts recommend that 60 minutes of each student’s day should involve moderate or vigorous movement such as bicycling, brisk walking or running. The infrastructures of several Lawrence elementary schools limit these schools’ ability to provide adequate opportunities for physical activity. In particular, five schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — have one space that serves as both a gymnasium and a cafeteria. The school bond issue will create separate, dedicated gymnasiums and cafeterias in every elementary school in the district. Some classrooms in these older elementary schools also are small in size, which limits how much students can move during classes. In these schools, classrooms will be enlarged to promote movement.
What will these improvements mean?
• Opportunities for more formal physical education instruction because physical education classes can be scheduled throughout the day in every district elementary school instead of being scheduled around meal service.
• The potential to increase the amount of physical activity offered during after-school programs at schools.
• The ability to have more movement-based activities during class time.
LiveWell wants schools to promote healthy eating through nutrition education and by offering healthy food options. Farm-to-school initiatives are programs that can supply fresh, locally-grown food in schools and offer education about healthy foods through school gardens, taste tests and farm tours. These experiences help children understand where their food comes from and how their food choices affect their bodies, environment and community.
Schwegler Elementary was chosen as a pilot farm-to-school program by the Lawrence Public Schools’ Food Service Department, and this pilot allowed special food purchases of locally-grown food for approximately 300 students to be served. However, adequate cooler storage and larger preparation areas would be needed to expand the program. The goal of the school district is to be able to accept and process deliveries from local farms and then distribute those foods to schools across the district. Under the bond issue, the district plans to renovate and expand the kitchen and cafeteria at Lawrence High School. This expansion would improve the school’s ability to accept incoming deliveries of produce from local farmers and to prepare foods for shipment to other schools throughout the district.
What will these improvements mean?
• Promoting local farms by increasing the Food Service Department’s purchases of locally-grown foods.
• Enabling schoolchildren to eat more fresh, locally-grown farm products.
— Susan Johnson is chair of LiveWell Lawrence. She also is Family and Consumer Sciences agent at K-State Research and Extension — Douglas County.