Directors of the Desert Healthcare District approved two grants to the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) and Cielo Vista Charter School (CVCS) for nutrition and fitness programs designed to encourage parent involvement and spur healthier lifestyles for nearly 3,000 Valley students.

The District awarded $803,626 to PSUSD to fund its Nutrition Education and Physical Activity Program over a 3 ••• year period, and a one-year award of $259,726 to CVCS to conduct a “Soaring to Healthy Lifestyles Program” in the District.

Nearing the end of its first year, the PSUSD grant has funded extensive nutrition education classes and physical education activities for students, staff, and families at Agua Caliente Elementary School in Cathedral City and Julius Corsini Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs. The program also includes health assessments for a defined cohort of students at the two targeted schools along with Cielo Vista and a control school, Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School in the Desert Sands Unified School District.

Parent involvement in this pilot program is critical to its success. Students in the first and second grades are being tracked for 42 months, both in the classroom and in their own homes via quarterly “motivational interviewing” with parents. The parents also attend workshops and confer with guest chefs in learning how to prepare healthy meals. A registered dietician and a licensed vocational nurse have been hired to help facilitate the program, and communicate directly with students, parents and faculty.

Physical activity is increasing using SPARKS (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) techniques at two recess times per day and during physical education classes. The funding provided SPARKS teacher training and ongoing support for the duration of the program.

PSUSD’s Student Services Department currently makes home visits to students and families that are at risk of falling behind in the system. Community liaisons – who already have established relationships with families – identify those families who may need additional services provided in the home. The home visits associated with this grant deal specifically with nutrition education, health, wellness and physical education for the students and family. The Nutrition Education Project Manager (a registered dietician) and a Licensed Vocational Nurse identify students on campus who warrant these additional services, and work in conjunction with the Registered Nurse on campus as well as the Student Services department.

The grant to Cielo Vista Charter School is helping to provide students and their families with fitness activities and nutritional education on school grounds. Classroom teachers and community aides facilitate active learning, instruction, and participation each day for 45 minutes. A full-time program coordinator has developed family-based activities and instruction based on health evaluations made at the beginning of the school year. Students are encouraged to work out on campus after school and with a parent. A school nurse conducts mid-year body composition assessments, and families and students complete a weekly menu plan that is used in nutritional evaluation.

For more information contact the Desert Healthcare District at 760-323-6113

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