Wilsonville ranks in nation’s healthiest elementary schools

By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer

WILSONVILLE — When birthdays are celebrated at Wilsonville Elementary, a bowl of fresh fruit can be found in place of a cake. The school’s fryer is often left unused now that the cooks are opting to bake more and more.

These efforts, along with many others, have landed Wilsonville on Health magazine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of America’s Healthiest Elementary Schools 2010.

In the October issue of the magazine, Wilsonville was among five schools across the nation honored for their programs promoting student health and wellness.

Rosemary Liveoak, Wilsonville’s principal, said the school was honored by the recognition.

“It’s nice sometimes to be singled out, but we’re all in sync in Shelby County,” she said. “I feel like we’re all doing this.”

Wilsonville focuses on providing healthy eating options for its students at every meal. Local farmers deliver fresh vegetables to the school, including green beans, collard greens and sweet potatoes. Liveoak said she sees the kids trying foods they’ve never tried before, intrigued by the stories of where the food came from, how it grows and how the school received it.

“I’ve already seen kids making the choice to go to the salad bar instead of the other bar because they see the fruits and vegetables there,” she said.

Exercise is another area of focus for the school. In the Fit Fifteen program, teachers take their students outside for a quick 15 minutes of exercise once a week, on top of their regular recess. Liveoak said the teachers use the time to exercise too, making laps around the track with the students.

The school also sends home a monthly newsletter and “nutrition nuggets” to parents so healthy habits can be continued at home. The newsletter offers suggestions for family physical activities, healthy snacks and nutrition advice.

Liveoak said she’s noticed a difference in the students since these changes were implemented at the school. The students were more open to trying new things and less students were going home sick, she said.

“It goes down to even washing your hands and blowing your nose,” she said. “That’s health, too.”

The school’s faculty and staff joined in on the healthy changes to help encourage the students. Last year the staff invited the community to join them in a Weight Watchers program at the school.

“After that session was over, we continued weighing in with the nurse,” Liveoak said. “It’s a concentrated effort you have to make. It’s a commitment you have to make to yourself.”