A City of Healthy Schools – APPLE School promotes food choices for students (Presented by Canadian Natural Resources Limited)
Fort McMurray is a healthy city, and it starts in the elementary schools. Since 2011, schools began taking part in a health promotion program called APPLE Schools, working with the organization to make the healthy choice an easy choice for students.
APPLE Schools works with 70 schools across four provinces helping each one to develop its own vision and plan for a healthy school community, and providing support to make it a reality. The program is proven to improve physical activity, healthy eating, and mental health habits.
Fort McMurray schools have experienced a healthy transformation occur through creative initiatives that became part of the fabric of their communities.
Several ingredients need to be in place for schools to be successful; three of them are: dedicated health champions, engaging student leaders, and creating healthy physical environments.
Dedicated Health Champions
Every APPLE school relies on an enthusiastic leader to rally people and spearhead healthy initiatives in schools – the school health champion (SHC).
This is usually a teacher in the school who makes sure everyone feels empowered to play a role in the process.
Mandy Dumais is a teacher and SHC at St. Paul School. She said that SHCs are the beacons in the schools.
“Staff and students look toward us for guidance regarding health and wellness and are even motivated to connect those ideas to curricular connections in the classroom. In the past 10 years, health champions in APPLE schools have helped to normalize what was once a formal concept and change it into, “It’s just what we do.”
She notes that a big part of a SHCs role is to ensure all practices being put into place are sustainable: “You want to walk away from the position and know that all the great initiatives started will continue.”
Students Lead the Way
APPLE schools empower students to be the change. Most of them have student-led committees called APPLE Core Committees who plan and facilitate healthy activities for the school.
Since opening in 2014, Walter and Gladys School has had an APPLE Core Committee to help fulfill their mission of “happy, healthy students making nutritious decisions while being physically active. ¨
David Hurley, a teacher and SHC at the school said, “our students love being involved in the committee because they know their voices will be heard and their opinion valued.”
He also added, “every year, dozens of students volunteer in some capacity to be a part of the committee. It really is a student-led club that the volunteer teachers simply help to facilitate. Our student leaders know they can make a difference and they love being a positive influence on our school community.”
Physical environments play a major role in shaping healthy behaviour.
One such example is “Don´t Walk in the Hallways” – simple, colourful tiles created by Ever Active Schools that transform a passive environment into an active one by prompting students to skip, hop, and jump across patterns.
Christina Gordon Public School was able to dress every hallway floor in the school and had students assist in the layout and creating activities.
“Our students now have the opportunity to be active in a space that normally doesn’t allow it. These simple floor stickers have turned our hallways into activity permissive environments, empowering and encouraging students, staff, even families to be more creative and active while moving through the school,” said Erin Andrews, a teacher and SHC at Christina Gordon.
She noted that “You’ll often catch the adults in the act, too.”
Fort McMurray Does It Well
These are three of several ingredients, that help to form a culture where wellness is embedded into day-to-day activities, and Fort McMurray schools lead the way in healthy schools across Alberta.
“At Westview, we are a proud APPLE school. Students and staff have embraced the program and it has become part of our school culture.” – Heather Redfurn, teacher and SHC, Westview School.
APPLE Schools is a charitable foundation funded by The Public Health Agency of Canada, Allan Markin, Interpipeline, Canadian Natural, Joyce Family Foundation, HDF Insurance, and Bouchier Group. Local supporters include: A.P.E Maintenance, C.P. Services Ltd., Hines Health Services, Printing Unlimited, Sultan Management Group, Rogers Insurance Ltd., Finning Canada, Teck Resources Limited, CEDA International Corporation, and Inner City Diesel Ltd.
APPLE Schools is currently seeking funding to continue supporting the Wood Buffalo area to ensure supports to schools next year. To donate or learn more, visit appleschools.ca.
Students at École St. Paul School enjoying their outdoor time.
Like many APPLE schools, École Dickinsfield School has its own tower garden that is managed by students. The greens that get harvested are used for making salads or taste tests.
High School students from both districts who were interested in bringing healthy APPLE School initiatives to their schools came together for a day of visioning and creating an action plan personalized to their schools’ needs.
APPLE schools weave traditional perspectives into their healthy initiatives. In the photo, students at Father Mercredi School helped an elder and his son set up a tipi. The elder taught the students about tipis and his son demonstrated a traditional chicken dance.
Students at Christina Gordon Public Schools break up a class to energize with a daily physical activity. Photos supplied by APPLE Schools
Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch
By APPLE Schools
APPLE Schools does not have its own policy on nutrition. Instead, they encourage schools to follow district and provincial guidelines. APPLE Schools is excited to share tips from nutrition experts at Alberta Health Services and information outlined in Canada’s Food Guide and Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth about packing a great lunch for kids.
Children spend nearly a third of their day at school, so their eating habits while learning have a big impact on their health.
School lunches and snacks provide children with the energy and nutrients they need throughout the day and are a major source of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to grow, develop, and learn.
Pro Tips for Packing Lunch
Involve Your Children: Take time to plan school lunches with your children. Get their input; make a list of all the foods they like and stick it on the fridge. Add to the list as they discover new foods and focus on options inspired by Canada’s Food Guide. If your child attends an APPLE school, they may have tried a new food during a taste test and feel excited to eat that food more often.
Involving children in planning and packing their lunch can:
- Improve their food knowledge
- Inspire them to try new foods
- Make them feel included
- Decrease the amount of wasted, uneaten food
- Lead by Example: Prepare and enjoy a variety of healthy foods with your children. Children are more likely to make healthy eating choices if you are too.
- Use Your Leftovers: Think about what you will be making for dinner during the week; use the leftovers to make quick and easy lunches the next day.
- Prepare to Grab and Go: Designate a shelf or basket in your pantry for healthy ready-to-go lunch snacks like dried fruit, apple sauce, whole-grain crackers, nut butters (if allowed). In your fridge, keep single-serve yogurt, hummus, and sliced cheese. Wash and peel enough vegetables for several days. Store in a closed container in the fridge.
- Include Variety: Keep lunches interesting and switch them up with foods from the three food groups in the Canadian Food Guide: whole grains, protein foods, and veggies and fruit.
Foods for the Four Seasons
Eating foods from all groups outlined in Canada’s Food Guide ensures that children get all the nutrients necessary for a healthy body and mind. But if you’re looking for ways to keep fruit and vegetables new and interesting, consider adding a seasonal touch to lunches.
Fresh greens and salads with seasonal ingredients such as asparagus, radishes, spinach, kale, green onion, and lettuce.
Warm, sweet, and colourful flavours from seasonal ingredients such as strawberries, raspberries, apples, melons, tomatoes and watermelon.
Think about transitioning back indoors to roast seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin, Brussel sprouts, pears, cauliflower, garlic, and zucchini.
Warm soups and stews that include seasonal ingredients like turnips, carrots, leeks, and sweet potatoes.
For more easy, healthy recipes, visit Alberta Health Services’ healthy eating resources webpage at albertahealthservices.ca and search “nutrition”.