By Audrey Rowe, FNS Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs
I’ve had a chance to see a great deal of impressive schools during my tour of the country to speak about Child Nutrition Reauthorization. My recent visit to Waterford Village Elementary was no exception. Witnessing their approach to providing their students good nutrition and physical fitness activities hammers home the importance of the commitments they and those in their communities have made.
Given that reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act is currently pending, I was eager to hear from students, teachers, and food service workers about how USDA can improve its programs and further support efforts like those made by this suburban Detroit school.
I was inspired and encouraged by what I saw and heard, as well as the people I met.
For starters, I toured the school’s amazing garden with Master Gardener Kathy Wolak. Kathy demonstrated how she uses raised planters to educate students about growing and caring for vegetables. She and the school plan to expand the garden to include fruit trees and to supply the nearby cafeteria with veggies and salad fixings to bring a whole new meaning to the term “locally-grown”.
After the garden tour, I had a tasty, freshly-prepared lunch with the veggie-lovin’ students of Waterford Village. Mary Seeterlin, Waterford’s food service manager and the School District’s Food and Nutritional Services staff have made eating lunch exciting at Waterford. Among other practices, they created a vegetable of the week program to get kids to try all sorts of new things. More than one student told me how much they like the program and I was surprised by how many kids ate fresh salads, garbanzo beans and even fresh broccoli—that’s right, fresh broccoli!
While with the students I mentioned First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. In return, I learned about a number of the school’s efforts to promote physical activity. A few of the students proudly displayed their enthusiasm for exercise by showing off with a few jumping jacks. They asked me to join them, which provided one of my favorite memories of the day!
I was inspired by so many people at Waterford that it’s difficult to name them all.
I look forward to visiting another school in the future, to hear about their innovative practices in nutrition and physical activity. But I’m also interested in hearing about the continued successes of Waterford Village’s amazing elementary school.
A Waterford Elementary School student enjoying a salad.
Audrey Rowe exercising with students at Waterford Elementary School.