Magazine article District Administration

South Texas District Makes Nutrition and Fitness a Priority to Reduce Diabetes

Magazine article District Administration

South Texas District Makes Nutrition and Fitness a Priority to Reduce Diabetes

Article excerpt

PROBLEM

The Rio Grande City Consolidated (Texas) Independent School District is located in Starr County, a poverty-stricken area that has a history of high death rates from diabetes. Located on the Mexican border, RGCCISD serves a 99 percent Hispanic population on 14 campuses. Of the nearly 10,800 students, 88 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. On top of that, Texas is ranked worst in the nation for health care coverage, with 26 percent of residents lacking insurance.

SOLUTION

For several years, Superintendent Roel Gonzalez has taken responsibility not only for student learning but also for the health of each student. As early as 2003, Gonzalez made nutrition a priority by eliminating fried foods, desserts, whole milk and fatty salad dressings from cafeteria menus, and in their place, adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Meals are baked only and are full of whole grains--the pizza has whole grain crust, and the burritos are made with whole grain tortillas.

Kids aren't going to just eat plain vegetables, so the cooks get creative in making fruits and vegetables appealing to kids. "We prepare a casserole with low-fat cheese, bread crumbs and green beans," says Patsy Ramirez, the district's nutrition director. "The kids love it. More kids eat fresh fruit if we put a dollop of whipped topping and a cherty on top."

Physical Fitness

To ensure wellness in elementary schools, the district uses the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), an evidencebased school health program designed to promote physical activity and healthy choices and prevent tobacco use. In middle school, students take RE. classes every day and are encouraged to participate in different sports during lunch period. High school students are required to take three semesters of P.E., after which they can take it as an elective. To encourage students to exercise after school, the district leaves facilities open for the community during after-school hours. …

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