Health main priority at St. Charles Parish school event

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

By Baileigh Rebowe


HAHNVILLE – St. Charles Parish school administrators, nurses, cafeteria managers and P.E. teachers gathered at the E.J. Landry Alternative Programs Center in Hahnville on Friday to get educated on healthy living.

The workshop was called “Get a Life: A Day of Fun, Fitness and Learning” and included seminars on nutrition and tobacco-free living, Zumba lessons and tennis demonstrations.

The gymnasium was filled with an assortment of booths where employees discussed exercise and eating tips and learned about health issues.

Healthy snacks such as granola, juice and water were also given out.

Mary Lou Sumrall, director of special programs for the school district, said the event was put on with money received from a grant called “Schools Putting Prevention to Work.”

The district was granted $17,000 to implement a wellness plan or improve a wellness plan in schools.

Because a plan was already in place, “Get a Life” allowed employees to further their learning to later educate their students, according to Sumrall. She said she wants children to start executing healthy habits because too often they are found sitting in front of a TV or computer screen.

“I hope kids get up, get moving and start eating healthy,” said Sumrall. “Kids can’t learn if they are not feeling well.”

Cynthia Ruffins, director of child nutrition programs for the district, said change in children’s habits start with the employees they see everyday.

“We empower (the employees) with new information to improve their own health,” said Ruffins. “In return they motivate children to improve their health, as well.”

As part of the plan, new dietary guidelines are being implemented throughout the district, which have gone away from the traditional food pyramid.

The USDA program is called “My Plate” and is simpler than the pyramid, focusing mainly on fruits, grains, vegetables and protein.

The St. Charles school nurses were excited to be a part of the workshop.

They administered blood glucose and blood pressure screenings to attendees, took their height and weight and measured oxygen levels.

Marci Hunter, school nurse at Hahnville High School, said exercise and proper nutrition are vital if other improvements are going to take place in the classroom, such as test scores.

“Health is the basis for so much,” said Hunter. “If we can factor it in, we have a foundation to build the rest.”