BURTON, MI -- Two Atherton schools administrators recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to give input on how to improve school nutrition.
Bethany Taylor, food service director for Atherton School District, and Susanne Carpenter, principal of Atherton Elementary, went to D.C. Feb. 23 and 24 to take part in the national gathering.
Taylor and Carpenter met with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and the offices of Sen. Gary Peters, Rep. Tim Walberg, Rep. Mike Bishop, and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, to share examples of how Atherton is at the forefront of a national school health movement by serving and selling healthier meals, snacks and drinks to students.
Atherton schools have made a number of healthy changes to its foods and beverages over the last several years. Since 2012, the district's dining program has been managed by Chartwells Dining Services.
The district's two schools offer salad and fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Student birthdays are celebrated with fruit kebabs, pretzels, and treats like pencils or crayons instead of unhealthy snacks.
Elementary students start their days with walks in the gym and grab-and-go breakfast in the classroom. Vending machines in the junior and high schools now sell healthier options. From October 2013 to October 2014, the district saw a 14 percent increase in breakfast participation and a 4 percent increase in lunch participation.
Atherton schools are members of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program, and has made these changes with the support of the program. Atherton Elementary School received the Alliance's National Healthy Schools Award in 2014. It was one of 34 across the nation to receive the award at the Silver level.
Atherton Junior Senior High School received the National Healthy Schools Award at the Bronze level.
Healthier nutrition standards for school meals went into effect in the fall of 2012. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that 88 percent of schools in Michigan are meeting the updated standards. The healthy changes being made in Atherton make it a model of success in Michigan and put the district in good company nationwide: More than ninety percent of schools are meeting the updated standards, according to a press release.
To accompany the healthy changes to school meals, updated nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks went into effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. More than 70 percent of parents nationally support healthier standards for school meals and snacks.