As the school year kicks off, youngest Newaygo County students CATCH up with nutrition, wellness program
FREMONT– To the sounds of children reciting the alphabet or laughing in hallways, add some new sounds in elementary schools throughout Newaygo County’s five school districts: lessons on nutrition and Zumba sessions in the gym.
These and other activities, woven into the curriculum of K-5th-grade students in Hesperia, White Cloud, Grant, Fremont, and Newaygo are part of the nationally recognized Coordinated Approach to Child Health, or CATCH, program. Piloted in White Cloud and Hesperia last school year, the program is spearheaded by Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial in partnership with the districts and Michigan State University Extension. Focusing on helping students embrace nutritious eating habits and physical activities, educators from Gerber Memorial are sharing easy-to-understand information ranging from how much sugar is in a can of pop and how to work fresh unprocessed affordable foods into kids’ daily diets, to easy fun exercises for school and home.
Researchers generally find that a higher quality diet is associated with better performance on exams, and that programs focused on increasing students’ health also show improvements in students’ academic test scores.
“The evidence is mounting that healthy kids are better learners. Schools play an important role in shaping our children’s health and wellness. Improved nutrition and increasing physical activity at school can create an environment that supports children’s readiness to learn,” explains Jena Zeerip, community health program lead at Gerber Memorial.
Upper elementary students will begin receiving 30-minute CATCH lessons starting in October, with lessons scheduled every other week, totaling eight by the end of January. Lower elementary students will begin in February and will also receive 30-minute CATCH lessons. The CATCH lessons are being slated this year for Grant, Hesperia, and Newaygo K- to 4th-grade students; 3rd- to 5th-grade students in Fremont; and K- to 5th-grade students in White Cloud.