Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lucero Elementary School Shines in School Wellness

Located in the Mount Eden section of the Bronx, Lucero Elementary School is a brand new K-2 school that opened its doors in 2013.  Since opening its doors in September, Lucero has recognized the unacceptably high rates of childhood obesity and the burden of chronic disease on families that already exist in the South Bronx.  Lucero Elementary School has taken significant steps to implement, communicate, and enforce a healthy snack policy, with the help of their very first school wellness committee. The Wellness committee, which is comprised of teachers, parents, and community partners, created and implemented an innovative sticker program to help students make healthier snack choices, as well as educate parents. 

The Lucero school wellness council developed a sticker that is placed on unhealthy snacks to remind students and parents to make better snack choices.  All Lucero students and staff have been constantly monitoring each other.  Students are checking nutrition labels to determine whether or not a snack is unhealthy, and are rewarded each Friday during the school’s community circle meeting for all of their hard work.  Students are presented with certificates for choosing healthier options in the cafeteria, helping monitor class snacks, and reading and analyzing nutrition labels.   The unhealthy snack sticker is a very powerful tool that sends a clear message to students and parents. 
Not only are Lucero students promoting and learning about healthier snack options, but they are also receiving the state mandated 120 minutes per week of physical education -- which is an excellent accomplishment.  Lucero Elementary School is also incorporating wellness into the classroom, through 20 minutes per day of Activity Works physical activity breaks. All students also attend weekly CookShop classes, where they learn about and enjoy sampling new vegetables, which they then recognize and select from the cafeteria salad bar.  Parents also have the opportunity to attend CookShop for families so that they are being educated about a variety of fruits and vegetables along with their children. In addition, the school promotes Zumba classes, which are held at the local community center, where parents have the opportunity to stay active each week.

Bronx Health REACH provides the school with support for their nutrition and fitness programs and policies through the Healthy Schools NY program, funded through the New York State Department of Health.  Healthy Schools NY aims to increase the number of schools that implement programs and policies that promote the consumption of healthy foods and beverages, fitness, and compliance with state physical education regulations.

Fitness & Activity Night, held on May 1st, was the culmination of the Lucero community’s efforts and was a celebration of the healthy school year for Lucero students and families, and community members. Fitness & Activity Night featured fitness stations and a sampling of fresh and healthy dishes from New Settlement Apartments and the Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood.  Funding for the event was made possible in part through a School Wellness Council grant from the New York City Department of Education.  The event accommodated over three hundred people, and was truly a success for Lucero Elementary School. 

Congratulations to Lucero Elementary School on receiving Gold Recognition in the Excellence in School Wellness Award program during the school’s first year! Thanks to Cristina Muia, Physical Education teacher and wellness coordinator at Lucero Elementary School, and Taisy Conk, Community Healthy Food Advocate from New Settlement Apartments, for their contributions to this article.

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