Teachers are playing a big role in making health awareness fun and interesting for Coachella Valley school kids

The Coachella Valley Health collaborative kicked off its 2012 Healthy Lifestyle Challenge in early January. Currently, over 1,600 Coachella Valley residents are participating in the challenge, including our valley school districts who have challenged each other for the top spot.

The spirited, good-natured challenge is lead by school board members, teachers and staff, providing healthy role models for students. There are a variety of different competitions (or “challenges”) going on within each district.

Wanda Grant, Nutritional Services Director in the Palm Springs Unified School District, explains that the goal of each program is to keep the kids moving. “When kids move more, they learn more.” During the school day and in after school programs, the district is using the SPARK’S Physical Education Program from San Diego State, which is a more inclusive, active and fun program than traditional Physical Education classes. Two of the district elementary schools are giving kids pedometers each Monday which they wear all week encouraging individual activity. On Fridays, the pedometers are read and the results tallied, creating a friendly competition with a healthy outcome.

Another great program is the “90215: Zip Code To Health.” The daily campaign encourages 9 hours of sleep, 0 sugary beverages, 2 hour limit of screen time, 1 hour of exercise; and 5 servings of fruits and veggies. Parents are also encouraged to participate and may attend motivational interviews to help meet the goals of the programs.

Many schools participate in Michelle Obama’s US Healthy Kids Challenge which invites local chefs to demonstrate healthy cooking skills to kids, parents and teachers.  In the Farm to School initiative, 32 local farmers provide fruits and vegetables to the schools. The produce is picked one day, delivered the next and is available to the kids on the third day. The Harvest of the Month program focuses on one food for the month. The schools incorporate this food into all areas of the curriculum.

Many staff members are participating in a Lighten Up Program, competing to get in shape, similar to the Biggest Loser. This program allows the staff to become healthy living and eating role models for the kids and families in the community.

Desert Oasis Healthcare is this year’s sponsor of the collaborative’s website. “Our healthcare organization recognizes the importance of preventative health. The program’s interactive website helps to promote physical fitness and an overall healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Marc Hoffing, medical director at Desert Oasis Healthcare.

To register for the 2012 challenge, visit www.mywellsite.com/cvhc. For more information about the Coachella Valley Health Collaborative, contact Gary Jeandron, Project Director, at (760) 341-2883, ext 78163 or [email protected] or visit cvhc.csusb.edu.

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