Petersburg City Schools meet Healthier US Challenge
Petersburg City School District, along with Kenai Borough Peninsula Elementary Schools are the first two Alaskan School Districts to receive national recognition for supporting the health of children and communities through the Healthier US School Challenge.
As part of their efforts in this challenge, the districts feature healthy items on their school menus and emphasize physical education and activity.
“Kenai had four elementary schools to meet this challenge,” Petersburg City Schools Superintendent Rob Thomason said. “But Petersburg was recognized district-wide.”
The districts will receive a monetary incentive for reaching the bronze level at $500 per school certified, a plaque from the United States Department of Agriculture, a banner to display at each school and the school name listed on the USDA Team Nutrition website.
The Healthier US School Challenge is a voluntary national certification initiative, sponsored by the USDA, for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.
“We are trying to introduce a lot more homemade stuff using whole grain flour which is a new component of the USDA guidelines,” Petersburg City Schools Food Services Director Carlee Wells said. “We are also introducing more fresh fruits and vegetables so that kids can really understand where their foods come from.”
Wells also explained that it is really good to get this recognition of what the schools are doing so the community understands that the school system is working to make changes.
“We are working to make healthier children and trying to teach them better lifestyle choices,” Wells said. “The Healthier US School Challenge takes physical activity and nutrition and brings it all together so that kids have a good foundation to grow on.”
The Petersburg School District also has a school and community garden where students and staff grow the produce that is now used in the school lunches. Wells and her co-workers prepare and serve the meals with a pretty limited amount of equipment.
“We only have two ovens right now,” Wells stated. “We have just purchased a steam kettle, but it isn’t up and running yet.”
Alaska has been one of the few states with no schools in the Healthier US School Challenge but now Petersburg is the only school in the state with a whole district that has been recognized for its efforts.