Spotlight on Wellness in the Schools
November 20, 2015
Culinary Nutritionists from SPE Certified and our sister restaurant Rouge Tomate have been working with WITS for years. Our team had the opportunity to attend their first Annual Fall Summit which celebrated the 10 year anniversary for the WITS organization and served as a forum to share more about this organization and the great work they do in schools.
Wellness in the Schools (WITS) is an organization that is committed to bringing nutritious foods, physical fitness, and healthy environments to kids in public schools across the country. Beginning in 2005, as a grassroots effort by a few New York City public school parents who were concerned about the effects of unhealthy school environments on their children’s well being, WITS has now grown to serve approximately 30,000 public school children in New York City, Kentucky, and Florida. Believing that “healthier bodies make healthier minds,” WITS is determined to allow “children to have the best possible environment in which to learn and grow.”
WITS has two main programs, Cook for Kids and Coach for Kids, which are hands-on food and fitness programs that were developed to combat childhood obesity and get kids excited about healthy food and physical activity. Coach for Kids gets students out of their seats and transforms recess from a sedentary activity to one that is full of games, fitness, and fun. Besides recess, kids are desk bound for most of the school day. To offset this and incorporate additional fitness time into the school day, WITS FIT BITS are included in the classroom. These 10 minute fitness breaks not only energize the body, they activate the brain and improve students’ ability to focus.
Cook for Kids is an incredible program that works within the National School Lunch Program guidelines to create nutritious, delicious, and seasonal meals for kids in public schools. WITS partners with local departments of education to implement the program in school cafeterias and classrooms. WITS chefs work with cafeteria staff to prepare scratch made meals daily and educate them on the importance of fresh cooked, seasonal foods. To further enhance students’ experience and knowledge of food and encourage them to try WITS menu items, the Cook for Kids program offers WITS Labs. WITS Labs are hands-on cooking classes where students learn to cook the lunch that will be served in the cafeteria that same day.
First Annual Fall Summit
At the WITS First Annual Fall Summit a few weeks ago I heard testimonials from parents and principals on the effectiveness of these labs and the WITS lunch menu in encouraging students to try new foods at lunch. Principals and parents from New York City’s public schools discussed how WITS has been successfully implemented in their schools along with some challenges that came along with the changes.
Carland Washington, the principal of West Prep Academy discussed how his greatest concern with welcoming the WITS programs into his school was the fact that for many of his students, the school lunch is the only hot meal they will eat that day. If the students did not like or accept the changes in their school lunches, they wouldn’t get their necessary nutrient intakes and could go hungry. This, however, was not a problem at West Prep and much of the success could be attributed to the implementation of WITS Labs. The WITS Labs helped students become familiar with the new foods served in the cafeteria and have been successful in getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables from the WITS salad bars.
Latest Posts Subscribe to the SPE RSS feed
October 16, 2018 by Doreen Garelick, Dietetic Intern
Our intern Doreen attended a food waste summit for restaurants and compiled these tips to help food service operators redirect food waste from landfills.
September 26, 2018 by Doreen Garelick, Dietetic Intern
Ever notice headlines about rapid weightloss? Dietetic Intern Doreen Garelick looks deeper into a recent eye-catching headline to see if there's any truth behind it.