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Moving Forward...Healthy Choices for Michigan Kids!

Doreen Simonds is the Nutrition and Purchasing Services Director for the Waterford Public Schools in Waterford, Michigan. Doreen has been a strong voice for healthier school meals and creative nutrition education strategies. Under her leadership, thirteen of Waterford’s twenty schools have won USDA HealthierUS School Challenge awards. I’d like to share Doreen’s blog below on the importance of teamwork in moving forward on children’s health and nutrition.

Oakland County, Michigan has always been in the forefront for promoting progressive moves in child nutrition to support healthy learning for our children. Waterford Schools Food and Nutrition is fortunate to be part of a collaborative community that is always growing for the good of education. With the help of great leadership in our Michigan Department of Education/Team Nutrition and School Nutrition Association of Michigan (SNAM) of Oakland County, we are implementing the new regulations set forth by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The teamwork provided our district with great support and direction through comprehensive and thorough statewide and county staff trainings. 

Waterford FNS began our plans long before the regulations were required starting with a Michigan Team Nutrition grant that aided us in receiving the HealthierUS School Challenge status for our schools. The advances that we made in our nutrition programs, like introducing kid-friendly whole grains and diverse farm fresh whole fruits and veggies, paved the way for meeting the meal pattern regulations. Our students were already accustomed to these foods long before the required time. Utilizing grant funds and resources from programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60 and Action for Healthy Kids allowed us to host many nutrition events, healthy eating plays, create student teams and community awareness to prepare our families for the great nutrition moves happening in our country. 

Waterford students learned how to make “Smart Snacks” (fruit kabobs) and the nutrition benefits of each fruit

Another key factor that aided our preparation for HHFKA accomplishments was our MI Team Nutrition Garden and USDA Farm to School Grants. Our partnerships with Oakland County Health Division and Farmers Market have created opportunities for our students to experience solid nutrition education with projects such as Cooking with Kids, farmer’s market field trips and mini-farmer’s markets in their cafés. Another partnership with West Bloomfield Henry Ford Hospital which houses a nutrition education center including a greenhouse has given our children the opportunity for increased exposure to wholesome food choices as well as learning about the good foods.  

This year, Oakland County embraced Fuel Up to Play 60 as the County Wellness Initiative. Waterford has been active in this great effort to further encourage students to advance their healthy perspective of the foods they eat and how they affect their bodies. Thanks to this solid foundation, we were able to further progress our meal program’s Smart Snack choices. Working with our vendors and through hosting taste tests we have found many offerings that our students welcome that meet the HHFKA requirements. Our district Wellness team has generated positive community involvement by promoting our plans and progression in wellness moves. MDE leaders provided a week long strong communication stream on Smart Snacks in School that we shared with our district, families and community. These messages opened doors to hear from students, staff and parents the positive effects that healthy food moves generate. Many teachers have commented how great it is to see kids walk through the school halls munching on apples and pears. We are grateful that our community embraces the smart moves we need to introduce Smart Snacks for the good of our smart students!