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Making kids get that ‘A’ in health


HIGH SCHOOL students enjoy their serving of vegetarian menudo and brown rice washed down with watermelon juice. Photo from Ann Abacan’s Facebook page

A month into the beginning of the school year, most parents may be worried not only of their kids’ grades, but about their health as well.

More than just the “conventional” health drives initiated by many other schools, the schools mentioned here have employed a long-term plan to ensure that their students are not only healthy, but also ready to face more health challenges in their adulthood.

A growing number of schools are taking to heart lifestyle-disease prevention and are launching a “revolution” in their cafeterias. For instance, an elementary school in New York City has become the first in the States to go all-vegetarian.

First US public school

The New York Daily News reported that Public School 244 in Flushing has been the first public school in the nation to serve all-vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch. Among the items in its cafeteria menu are whole grain sunrise carrot bread with hot cereal, roasted organic tofu with cacciatore sauce, whole grain pasta and roasted zucchini, “superhero” spinach wrap with cucumber salad, chickpea falafel in a soft wheat wrap with chopped romaine, fresh diced tomatos and cucumber salad.

The New York Daily News quoted Eric Goldstein, chief executive of the Office of School Support Services for the city Education Department, as saying that city public schools have undergone a “revolution” in their cafeteria fare since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office.

The Washington Times, in its story “Bloomberg launches vegetarian-only school lunch,” reported that the school’s switch to vegan fare comes amid a years-long drive from Bloomberg to improve the health choices of city residents. He has also compelled restaurants to post calorie counts and ban the use of trans fats.

Recent studies have shown that elevated blood cholesterol levels have been closely related with fatal heart disease. The Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine cited that dietary cholesterol comes from animal products like pork, beef, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt.

In the Philippines, there are now several school cafeterias that have gone vegetarian, including Adventist-run universities. A small school in Bulacan, however, needs special mention. The Sophia School in Meycauayan, Bulacan, decided in 2012 to offer vegetarian-only meals on Mondays, and vegetarian options Tuesdays to Fridays. Shelving the conventional meat- and dairy-based fare  provided Sophia School added revenues from the brisk sales. The canteen began to offer fresh vegetables and vege-meat (or vegetable fiber that tastes like meat), fruits and grains.

Today, Sophia School administrator Lorenzo Abacan (a psychologist), and principal Marie Ann Abacan (a nutritionist-dietician) affirm that their school is quite literally going strong with the vegetarian effort.

Germ hotspots

But there’s more to overall health than diet. Another health challenge that kids face is germs.

During the recent Procter & Gamble (P&G) Germ Academy media event, hygiene advocates pointed to germ “hotspots” which people are constantly in touch with, literally. With a germ-detection device called luminometer (photometric instrument that detects a sample’s level of contamination), the hotspots were found to be cell phones, ballpens, bag straps, wristwatch, identification cards, computer keyboards and computer mouse.

“We have to think holistically and determine all possible germ hotspots, because it can happen at different points and different times of the day,” said Clint Navales, P&G country communications leader.

“We would like to make it clear that no one is exempted from getting germs, whether you’re rich or poor. Whenever you are sick, there is an increased opportunity for germs to spread, especially in homes. You will find germs in different parts of the home such as kitchens and bathrooms, but the most important thing is to be knowledgeable in identifying the places where germs will most likely spread,” Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said.

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Tags: disease prevention , health and wellness , schools , Students

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