St Padre Pio students have chosen to participate in York Region’s You’re the Chef Cook Off competition. The group wants to peel, chop and mix your way to the best recipe in York Region through a partnership with the York Region Food Network to run a region-wide cooking competition for elementary schools. The SPP team submitted a recipe that: uses local, in season Ontario vegetables and fruit, includes ingredients that are reasonably priced, is vegetarian, healthy and quick to prepare, looks, tastes and smells delicious, and reflects York Region’s cultural diversity. The recipe was submitted on May 5, 2017 with hopes of being one of the three finalist teams announced on Friday May 12, 2017 to attend a cook-off between 6:30-8:30 p.m. on June 7, 2017 in Oak Ridges in front of a live audience and judging panel, and a chance to win some great prizes. Special thanks to Nancy, our public health nutritionist and our healthy schools committee teachers and administration for co-ordinating and encouraging our students to submit an entry.
St Padre Pio School hosted a parent and children night at the school in March, 2017. The focus of this evening was on mental health and raising resilient children. The workshop was sponsored by a Parent Reaching Out (PRO) Grant. This year’s topic was identified by parents on the healthy schools survey as the number one topic they were interested in attending an evening presentation on. This year the parents listened to speakers Michael and Christine Way Skinner in the library. Their talk entitled “Raising Resilient Children. Parenting in Trying Times” was well received by the parents in attendance. The children took part in an interactive session in the gym hosted by Arts Express which focussed on mindful movement and breathing (yoga) and storytelling. Both the parent and student groups had a break half way through the evening to enjoy health snacks of fresh fruit and water. A special thank you to SPP PRO Grant committee for applying for these funds and organizing this event for the school each year.
Each fall the staff and students at SPP school take part in the Terry Fox walk to raise money for a great cause. In the past, following this event everyone enjoyed a pizza lunch. The principal, vice principal and healthy schools committee agreed that after partaking in physical activity, serving pizza for lunch was inconsistent messaging for staff and students. For the past two years, following the walk each student gets a shiny red apple and is encouraged to fill up their water bottles using one of the schools water bottle refilling stations). A big thank you to our school principal Mrs. Corriero for recognizing the inconsistency and promoting healthier snacks following the Terry Fox walk.
Each June the SPP healthy schools committee plans a watermelon snack day for every staff and student at the school. While popsicles or freezies may be a nice treat, offering them within the school setting is inconsistent with a comprehensive school health approach. With refreshing cut up trays of watermelon delivered to each class, students learn that healthy foods can also be delicious and satisfying during the warm months.A big thank you to one of our Healthy School Chairs Silvia who keeps this event going year after year.
As part of our school’s year end BBQ, the BBQ planning committee wanted to find a more appealing way to offer fresh fruit and vegetables to families who attended. In the past fruit trays attracted bugs and other pests, and there were food safety concerns (children touching the fruit or vegetables) on the tray. Our school sought out and made contact with a local caterer who offers healthy catering alternatives. The caterer was able to offer individually packaged fruit salad, veggies and dip or house salad to BBQ attendees for a very reasonable price. A minimum order was required to proceed with the caterer, but the school easily exceeded this. The fruit and vegetables looked fresh, flavourful and were healthy and being individually packaged got around some of the logistical issues the BBQ had faced in the past. Parents and students gave nothing but positive feedback on the fruit and vegetable options.
Our school’s healthy schools committee began planning for Nutrition Month just after Christmas. It was decided that SPP would celebrate Nutrition Month during the first week of March. Our activities included:
– Having the healthy student ambassadors trained by the Public Health Nutritionist putting together morning announcements to share with students around healthy eating messages.
– Having the student ambassadors go from class to class with the interactive nutrition wheel from York Public Health to share grade appropriate nutrition and healthy eating messages with students.
– Renting “FREGGIE” (part fruit and part veggie mascot) from the Ontario Produce Marketing Association to go to classes with the big wheel. This was very interactive and the children enjoyed visiting with Freggie and getting a Freggie key chain.
– Ending the week by participating in the Big Apple Crunch.
– Activities were advertised on the board outside of the school as well as in the monthly school newsletter. A big thank you to the healthy student ambassadors and everyone on the healthy schools committee for co-ordinating a successful campaign.
In previous years our main parent council lead fundraising event has centred around using less healthy food choices to raise money to the school. This type of fundraising is not consistent with a comprehensive school health approach, and sends mixed messages to the students, staff and families. In 2017-2018, building on the success of the Fresh from the Farm fundraiser run by the student leadership committee in the fall, the parent council fundraising committee put together a fundraising campaign that involved a cash donation only (no products or services promoted/sold). The school’s teacher librarian did a series of videos demonstrating the types of materials that fundraising dollars would go toward purchasing for the school learning commons. The school was pleased to reach their fundraising target with this campaign, while not promoting unhealthy eating behaviour. Prizes of various levels were awarded to students and included gift cards, attraction passes, sporting even tickets etc. It was amazing to see the school raise the same amount of money as they had in the past, but doing so without promoting chocolate or cookie dough. The fundraising committee chairs were passionate about ensuring that this year’s fundraiser be consistent with healthy schools messaging.
During one of our school’s healthy schools committee meetings the teachers and vice principal expressed interest in having the York Region Public Health nutritionist do a lunch and learn session with the teachers. The topic of “policing school lunches” and healthy school food culture often comes up in conversations at the healthy schools table. In February 2017, our Public Health Nutritionist presented a lunchtime presentation to a group of teachers. Her talk was called Teacher Role in Creating a Healthy School Food Culture. The presentation discussed: What is a healthy school food culture and what teachers can do to promote healthy eating both inside and outside the classroom, based on Ministry of Education, Foundations for a Healthy School, how to discuss nutrition with students and families using a neutral (do no harm) approach and linking mental health to nutrition, key messages on promoting healthy school lunches and snacks to students and families, tips for teaching about healthy eating effectively, cross-curricular connections and practical ideas to foster an authentic learning experience for students and suggestions for curriculum resources to support teaching about healthy eating. The workshop was well received and attended. A big thank you to Nancy our public health nutritionist who took the time to come out and do this workshop for teachers at the school. Given all of the media attention given to “policing of school lunches” lately, it is valuable to have a qualified nutrition professional come in and share accurate and reliable information in a way that is consistent.
During one of our healthy schools committee meetings, there was a discussion about stress and mental health. This topic was identified as most important by parents during last year’s healthy schools survey. The public health nurse offered to complete workshops for managing stress for grade 7-8 students. During March and April 2017 Samantha, our public health nurse in collaboration with the grade 7-8 teachers completed the training for 186 students at the school. In follow up conversation teachers are reminding the students of techniques taught and opportunities to apply this strategies both in class and other activities (e.g. with the upcoming plays being performed by the students). Samantha shared some ideas for mental health week such as creating a “cheerful chain” where each student writes something good or an act of kindness and the chain gets built to go all around the school. During Bell Let’s talk Day, the teacher librarian gave the grade 7s an assignment specific to mental health topics. Next year we will explore the grade 1-3 program (kids have stress too) and / or the grade 4-6 stress lessons and look at expanding on Bell let’s talk and or mental health week with activities or a wellness wall It is really positive to be talking about and addressing mental health issues such as stress within the school environment. The more opportunities we give the students to learn and practice strategies throughout their lives, the better given the high number of children dealing with stress and anxiety today. A big thank you to our public health nurse Samantha for co-ordinating these workshops with the school.
The St Padre Pio Healthy Schools committee is made up of students, teachers, school administrators, parents and public health staff. At one of our recent meetings the group discussed the public health nutritionist coming to do Healthy Student Ambassador training with a group of grade 6-7 students, including some students who are a part of the school leadership committee and the healthy schools committee. Early in March 10-12 students were trained with the public health nutritionist on health eating basics, as well as how to use the interactive nutrition wheel with the different grades of the school. As part of this training sessions students brainstormed healthy ideas that they would like to see implemented at SPP school, which the healthy school committee will follow up on for next year. The brainstorming activities gathered from the students during the Healthy Ambassador training are valuable starting points for planning at the school in 2017/2018. The students that were trained put their knowledge to use right away during the month to celebrate Nutrition Month (see Taste of Nutrition Badge). It was great to see students so engaged in increasing their knowledge about nutrition and healthy eating, and be able to put this to use with their peers at at school. A big thank you to Nancy B, the York Public Health Nutritionist for supporting this training at the school.
During the 2015-2016 school year, running the federal Fresh from the Farm program was proposed through the healthy schools committee. The teacher(s) in charge of the student leadership committee, comprised of grade 7s registered the school, and prepared notices and information to send out to parents in the fall of 2016-2017 school year. Leadership committee students went to all the classrooms talking to students about the initiative and paperwork was sent home. In November, fruit and vegetable bundles were delivered to the school for parent pick up and distribution. The leadership committee raised approximately $2000 toward their $10 000 goal for the year. The You’re the Chef program, which was also piloted tested in the school during the month of November used recipes that included the fruit and vegetables included in the bundles as much as possible. In order to run this fundraiser, discussion needs to begin in the spring of one school year to register and begin preparation, as forms and information needs to go out very early in the next school year (e.g. late September, early October). It was very beneficial to have the student leadership committee leading the initiative. They gained leadership and other confidence building skills by putting together and delivering presentations to each classroom, as well as receiving, sorting and distributing the fruit and vegetable bundles helped the students.
During the last You’re the Chef program session, the parent volunteers were able to be more hands off, and the students took the lead in the food preparation and cooking. It was great to see how much they had progressed over just one month.
One of the parents who came into the last session to sample and see her daughter receive her certificate said “I need to take a picture of this!” “I can’t believe my daughter is actually eating eggs! She never eats eggs.”
The public health nutritionist on our healthy schools committee encouraged our healthy schools committee to register the school. She also pointed out that with many of the healthy school initiatives, we would be eligible for a number of badges.