Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) was named the 2010 District of the Year in School Nutrition today during the 2nd General Session of the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference. On behalf of the school district, Food and Nutrition Services Director, Penny McConnell, RD, SNS, accepted the award of $25,000 to further improve and enhance the district’s school nutrition program operations.
FCPS’s Food and Nutrition Services department was recognized for its commitment to excellence in creating nutritious, appealing meals, implementing innovative nutrition education initiatives, developing a strong professional development program and exercising superior financial management.
As the District of the Year in School Nutrition, FCPS will use the $25,000 award to expand its unique nutrition education programs. For example, the district will develop an animated video, â€˜5 Star Lunch,â€™ for Preschool â€“ grade 6 students to teach them about healthy food choices and how to assemble a well-balanced lunch from the variety of daily lunch options.
As School Nutrition Association members work to meet their commitment to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, FCPS offers a model for schools working to educate children about healthy food choices.
FCPS’s Food and Nutrition Services department partners with teachers, hosting approximately 500 nutrition education sessions a year, and the department reaches the broader community by conducting monthly nutrition education sessions in Head Start classes and at senior citizens centers and participating in approximately 30 district health fairs a year.
The department’s popular â€˜Give Me 5! Colors That Jiveâ€™ program introduces students to new and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables each month (such as jicama, butternut squash and sweet potato wedges). Items are featured on the menu and in flyers on the serving line, and students enjoy the colorful trivia and activity pages provided to teachers to incorporate into classroom instruction.
â€˜Fairfax Kids Cookingâ€™ teaches students about healthy food choices and gives them the opportunity to bring home some basic cooking skills. Parents can also access critical tools for talking with their children about nutritious choices through the department’s online videos and Nutrition Calculator for Healthy Snacks. This year, the district will take its 9-5-2-1-0 Zip Code to Your Health program countywide to help teach students about healthy lifestyles.
These nutrition education lessons culminate in the cafeteria, where nutrition information for entrees is posted right on the serving lines. With some of the strictest competitive food regulations in the country and cafeterias that offer more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, Fairfax County has earned numerous awards for nutrition integrity.
Running the largest child nutrition feeding program in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which serves students from over 100 countries, FCPS has been a leader in planning menus that reflect students’ personal, cultural and therapeutic preferences, and as a result, program participation has increased. Hosting monthly student taste tests, including surveys of students’ favorite fruits and vegetables is one FCPS’s recipes for success.
Fairfax County Public Schools was one of eleven districts from across the nation awarded the District of Excellence Distinction this year through SNA’s Keys to Excellence program.
Keys to Excellence, a core component of SNA’s professional development and credentialing programs since 1992, is a national best practice standards tool for school nutrition professionals seeking to assess, benchmark and improve their school food and nutrition operations. School districts may apply for the District of Excellence Distinction by completing a comprehensive application process including a thorough program self-assessment in all four â€˜Keyâ€™ areas: Administration, Communications and Marketing, Nutrition and Nutrition Education, and Operations. All applications are judged by a formal peer review panel.
Only districts that have earned the District of Excellence Distinction are permitted to apply for the prestigious $25,000 District of the Year Award. FCPS is the third recipient of the District of the Year Award. The District of Excellence and District of the Year programs are made possible through the support of the National Dairy CouncilÂ®.
To learn more about the District of Excellence program, please visit www.schoolnutrition.org/KEYS.
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