Anson Gold Day: Students, teachers, community celebrate Anson Elementary School’s HUSSC Gold Award

“Each and every one of you is a part of this success,” Mayor Tommy Thompson told an assembly of students and staff from Anson Elementary as he declared May 22, 2013, “Anson Gold Day”. Mayor Thompson’s proclamation was just one part of a celebration for the school’s prestigious Gold Award in the USDA’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge.

“It’s great to see people doing the right things for the right reasons,” Dr. Marvin Wade, superintendent of schools, told the crowd. “It’s not done for the recognition, but that’s come along the way.”

The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.  It supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity.  Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the initiative encourages all schools take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime.

“Our journey is long and it’s not over yet,” said principal Bea Niblock. “Each day we become better at what we do.”

Anson’s journey to the HUSSC Gold Award began 13 years ago when it became a Team Nutrition school, working with business partner Hy-Vee to add fresh fruits and vegetables to evening events. In 2006 the school began breakfast in the classroom and in 2007 began having more lessons on nutrition. In 2009 the school began participating in the USDA fresh fruits and vegetables program, exposing kids to different kinds of produce several times a week. Next year that program will expand from three days a week to five.

“They have a staff who will do work for what’s good for kids,” said Vickie McVey, district food services director. McVey worked closely with Niblock, physical education teacher Don Wiser and school nurse Sheri Edwards to put practices in place that led to the Gold Award.

“My part has been easy,” Wiser said. “I get to do what I love most: teach.”

Physical activity is an important component of the Gold Award. Wiser developed activities that can be done in the classroom to incorporate more physical activity into the learning environment. The school also increased time for P.E. class.

“We have seen a big different for our students,” said Edwards, who with Wiser mapped out a walking trail around the school grounds. Since the fall students have walked a combined 3,780 miles, enough to travel from the school to Disney World to the Statue of Liberty and back to Marshalltown.

Along the way Edward tracked student physical fitness. Between fall and spring of this school year Anson saw a 5 percent decrease in the number of students overweight or obese.

“Everyone cares about the students at Anson Elementary,” said Ann Feilmann, bureau chief for the Iowa Department of Education’s Nutrition and Health Services. Feilmann, who previously served as food services director for Marshalltown Schools, said she’s extremely proud of Anson’s accomplishments, noting there are only 12 school buildings in Iowa that have ever received gold status.

Darlene Sanchez, regional division director of special nutrition programs for the USDA Mountain Plains region, presented the school with an award plaque signed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and a banner to display in the school. The school also receives a $1,500 prize.

The school meets strict USDA HUSSC Gold guidelines that include a requirement that 100 percent of grains offered weekly are whole grain-rich, and different fruits are offered each week, three of which are served fresh. For the gold award, elementary schools are required to offer a minimum average of 90 minutes of P.E. each week. Elementary schools must also offer nutrition education in all grade levels. 

Above: PE teacher Don Wiser leads the auditorium in the “Interlude Dance” during the Gold Award Celebration. The physical activity break is a example of how Wiser has worked with Anson staff to integrate more physical activity into the school day in new ways.

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