The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has named Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools its 2010 District of the Year in School Nutrition during its recent Annual National Conference in Dallas. Fairfax’s Food and Nutrition Services department was recognized for its commitment to excellence in creating nutritious, appealing meals, implementing innovative nutrition education initiatives, developing a strong professional development program and exercising superior financial management.
As the District of the Year in School Nutrition, Fairfax will receive a $25,000 award it can use to expand its nutrition education programs. For example, the district will develop an animated video, “5 Star Lunch,” for Preschool-grade 6 students to teach them about healthy food choices and how to assemble a well-balanced lunch from the variety of daily lunch options. Its Food and Nutrition Services department partners with teachers, hosting approximately 500 nutrition education sessions a year, and the department reaches the broader community by conducting monthly nutrition education sessions in Head Start classes and at senior citizens centers and participating in approximately 30 district health fairs a year.
The department’s popular “Give Me 5! Colors That Jive” program introduces students to new and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables each month (such as jicama, butternut squash and sweet potato wedges). Items are featured on the menu and in flyers on the serving line, and students enjoy the colorful trivia and activity pages provided to teachers to incorporate into classroom instruction.
“Fairfax Kids Cooking” teaches students about healthy food choices and gives them the opportunity to bring home some basic cooking skills. Parents can also access critical tools for talking with their children about nutritious choices through the department’s online videos and Nutrition Calculator for Healthy Snacks. This year, the district will take its “9-5-2-1-0 Zip Code to Your Health” program countywide to help teach students about healthy lifestyles.
These nutrition education lessons culminate in the cafeteria, where nutrition information for entrees is posted right on the serving lines. Fairfax has some of the strictest competitive food regulations in the country and its school cafeterias offer an impressive array of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
Fairfax County Public Schools was one of eleven districts from across the nation awarded the District of Excellence Distinction this year through SNA’s Keys to Excellence program. Only districts that have earned the District of Excellence Distinction are permitted to apply for the prestigious $25,000 District of the Year Award. FCPS is the third recipient of the District of the Year Award. The District of Excellence and District of the Year programs are made possible through the support of the National Dairy Council.