• Let's Celebrate Earth Month!
    April 12, 2016 Comments(0)

    When you hear about Earth Month, what's the first thing you think of? For me it immediately transports me back to elementary school. All of a sudden I am 7 years old again, sitting at my desk transforming a leftover milk carton from lunch into a flower pot while my teacher lists off all of the reasons why we should recycle. These days if you asked a 7 year old what Earth Month means to them, I bet you would be surprised and impressed by their answer.

    Sustainability means:

    • Protecting the Planet – "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"…it's an oldie but a goodie. Everything we do has an effect on our planet. What do you do to help reduce your footprint? It can be as easy as carpooling to work, turning the faucet off when you brush your teeth or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store.
    • Living a Healthy Lifestyle – Everyone knows they should eat healthy and get more exercise but did you know that these habits affect more than just your own health? Walking or riding your bike instead of driving helps cut down on gas use nationwide. The Flexitarian diet is one of my favorites because it promotes plant based proteins as the center of the plate. By reducing your meat consumption you can reduce your environmental footprint.
    • Responsibility – Being sustainable literally means to perpetuate existence. Everything boils down to our responsibility for taking care of our planet so that we can leave our children and their children with the same amazing earth we have today.

    Schools and their communities have done a tremendous job of teaching their students that sustainability is more than just one day or one month of the year. Instead they are incorporating important lessons into the school curriculum that reminds them sustainability needs to be lived every day. 

    ​In Newville, Pennsylvania all three elementary schools in Big Spring School District now have gardens. They call them their Eat.Learn.Live Gardens because they are meant to teach the students about agriculture and the importance of sustainable growth. The gardens have become part of the school community, everyone from students to teachers to custodians pitch in to help the garden prosper. Not only do the students get to help grow the produce but they get to enjoy eating it as well. The vegetables and herbs grown in the gardens are used in the school cafes. Michelle Morgan, Food Service Director for Big Spring, says "There has been a great response from the kids regarding the gardens and items that appear on the lunch menu. In particular, they love the homemade kale chips, oven browned parsley potatoes and white radishes." When it comes to living sustainably everyday these gardens teach the students to do just that. Even in the summer months when school is not in session the gardens are still available to the community members. They are able to pick vegetables for their families in exchange for picking a weed or two.

    So why have a school garden? Gardens not only give students access to new and exciting produce they may not get anywhere else but also provides additional physical activity during the school day. Gardens provide teachers and school staff the opportunity to bring their classrooms outside. If you think about it, any portion of the school curriculum can be tied to gardening. Math, social studies, art, science it can all be tied back to the garden…talk about new ways to help our students grow!

    If you are interested in starting a garden in your school but don't know where to start, reach out to your food service director. Chartwells has compiled numerous resources that are extremely helpful when embarking on a school garden project. You can also request a copy of our comprehensive eat. learn. live. School Garden Program Guide right from our website! This resources leverages the experience of KidsGardening.org, Chartwells K12 and our 8 pilot school locations who believe in the powerful impact gardens have on creating sustainable school systems and practices as well as sustainable wellness habits for students.

    Gardens aren't the only way to live sustainably every day. Try starting a recycling program, start a walking club or try going meatless one day a week. Every little bit counts! #EarthMonth

    ​Aliza Stern, RD is a Chartwells K12 Regional Dietitian in the Mid Atlantic Region. 

  • Considerations Before Posting to Social Media
    March 28, 2016 Comments(0)

    When deciding whether to post photos or comments on social media, there are a number of factors to consider.  In addition to ​your own thoughts, you need to take into account that friends and family members will be impacted by your choices. Also, once something is posted, even if you delete it at a later date, the content remains on-line as part of your Internet footprint.

    Questions to ask:

    1. Does this photo reflect an image you feel comfortable sharing and will my friend(s) included in the photo also approve of their image going public?
    2. How will your parents, siblings, or grandparents feel if they see the picture?
    3. Will I be happy that I posted this picture five years from now? When you post a photo online, remember that it leaves an Internet footprint or online history that remains even if you delete the photo.
    4. Should I post this status? Is the content rude or abrasive? Are you sharing too much personal information?
    5. Should I post this comment? Is the comment kind? Would you say it to someone face-to-face?
    6. Should I share this link? Is the link for a website with appropriate content? Does the link give TMI (too much information), compromising your privacy and safety?





  • National Nutrition Month: Savor the Flavor All Year Long!
    March 15, 2016 Comments(0)

    ​As we continue to celebrate National Nutrition Month throughout March, Chartwells Registered Dietitian Allison Haring teaches us a few of her tips and tricks to savor the flavor all year long!

    March is National Nutrition Month!  As a registered dietitian this means I get to celebrate my love for food and nutrition all month long. 

    I was especially excited about this year's National Nutrition Month theme, "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right".  Eating right is so much more than seeking out the healthy nutrients that are found in the foods and beverages we choose to put into our bodies.  To gain all the benefits of proper nutrition we also have to ENJOY the food we eat.  This year's theme of savor the flavor places emphasis on appreciating food traditions, enjoying the social experiences built around food, and celebrating the pleasure of great flavor that food adds to our lives.     

    Savoring the flavor of eating right means to:

    • Enjoy the entire eating experience – who we are with, what we are eating, and being fully aware of our dining environment.
    • Appreciate food traditions – delight in the flavors that make up your culture or your family's food traditions; whether it's a large dinner every Sunday night or trying new dishes at cooking classes with your closest friends every Thursday.
    • Develop a healthy and mindful eating pattern – choose nutritious and flavorful foods, while decreasing added sugar, sodium, and unnecessary amounts of fat.   

    There are ways to add flavor to our food without sabotaging our nutritious diets!  Here are some of my favorite tips:

    • Instead of adding salt to vegetables try different combinations of herbs and spices – try fresh sage and thyme on roasted potatoes or fresh ginger and garlic on stir-fried asparagus!
    • Sprinkle cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice on fruit for some extra sweetness.
    • Use red pepper flakes in any dish to bring on the heat and a unique flavor.
    • Use fresh garlic and garlic powder instead of adding salt – you can use garlic in practically anything!
    • Make homemade soup with low-sodium broth and use herbs and spices for flavor instead.
    • Top salads with basil and oregano – you may find you don't even need salad dressing anymore!

    There are so many substitutions like this that help pack food with flavor and make them healthier for our bodies.  It is so important to savor the flavor of the foods that we love and to make sure they are still good for us.  So, remember during March – National Nutrition Month – and all year long, to take the time to appreciate the flavor of your food, the experiences, and the food traditions that make you happy! 

    Check out our Homemade Salsa Fresca recipe that showcases how to flavor food in a healthy and mindful way.  Enjoy!

    ​Written by Allison Haring, CFT, MS, RD, Great Lakes Regional Dietitian


  • Parents: Promoting Digital Citizenship
    March 14, 2016 Comments(0)

    ​The second part in our series on cyberbullying awarness and prevention strategies supports parents and caretakers in promoting good digital citizenship habits for children. Our expert partners at Prevent Child Abuse America have provided real, practical advice for building great digital citizens:

    As parents, it is critical to teach your child about digital citizenship.    Your children are being raised in a digital world.  Schools are increasingly incorporating technology into the classroom and even toddlers are watching videos and playing games on tablets.  As a result, younger and younger children are becoming comfortable with mobile devices.   With that comfort comes the need for responsibility. The following are some tips for encouraging cyber safety.

    ​As soon as your child begins to use devices with Internet access, you should provide them with clear guidelines for usage.  Encourage them to:

    • Keep personal information and passwords private, even from their close friends.
    • Post only words and pictures that they feel comfortable with others seeing, even if they believe they are in a private domain.
    • Avoid sending messages when they are angry. Ask them to consider how they would feel as a recipient before they click send.
    • Hold back from responding to cyberbullying behavior. Save the information and show a parent or another trusted adult.
    • Serve as an ally to friends or other students who experience cyberbullying by sharing with you or another trusted adult.


    After you have established family rules for technology usage, it remains important to monitor online behavior and protect their safety.  Consider adopting and adapting the following rules as your children grow:

    • Keep the computer in an open space where your child will be supervised. 
    • Set limitations on accounts and passwords.
    • Examine their social media sites and other technology to make sure they do not share personal information or inappropriate content.
    • Review your child's "friend list" on a regular basis and ask your child how he or she knows each person on the list

    If your family lives far from relatives, your children can use technology to maintain relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Skype and Face Time offer accessible alternatives to being together in person and can strengthen ties in between visits.  

    To continue promoting positive digital citizenship, share examples of how you use social media.  Make sure your children are aware when you post and share upcoming events in your neighborhood or community issues you believe need to be discussed. Use social ​media to discuss topics you are passionate about. Join groups or like pages on books, film, sports teams, music, businesses, politics or anything else that matters to you. You might demonstrate your viewpoints by adding a filter representing a social issue to your profile picture. For example, the French flag filter has been used to demonstrate support for victims of the Paris attacks.

    As parents, you can also offer opportunities to reinforce technology practices introduced in school. When your children ask questions about breaking news, help them use social media to find up-to-date information and search for "hashtags" (represented by  # symbol) that correspond with news stories.  When they have research to complete for school projects, you might help younger students navigate the Internet to find articles. 

  • Cyberbullying: Get The Facts
    March 8, 2016 Comments(0)

    ​This year, Chartwells K12 and Prevent Child Abuse America are partnering to educate students, parents and the community on strategies to #JustStandUp to Cyberbullying. Over the next several weeks, we will share tips and tools to help you and your students navigate this rising source of bullying behavior. But first - let's talk facts. What is cyberbullying and who does it impact?

    With most youth receiving their first smartphone by the age of 11 and teenagers spending, on average, 10 hours a day in front of a screen – smartphone, desktop, tablet or gaming device cyber safety has risen to become a primary health concern for parents.  In addition to using the Internet for school research, the majority of adolescents use social media to stay connected with friends and to learn what is happening in their friends' lives.

    While the number of children and youth reporting victimization by cyberbullying remains lower than those reporting bullying by a more traditional method,  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the use of social media signifies the aggression has the potential to spread anonymously beyond the classroom, cafeteria, or locker room to a much wider audience.[1]

    According to the National Cyberbullying Research Center, any form of electronic technology used to harass, harm or intimidate can be considered cyberbullying. Among the various methods that cyberbullies use include:

    • Sending negative messages over text, email or a social media account
    • Spreading rumors over the Internet
    • Displaying hurtful messages online about another individual
    • Stealing account information to post damaging material as another person
    • Taking or circulating unwanted pictures of an individual[2]  

    The highest reported method of cyberbullying is through spreading rumors online (19.4%), followed by mean or hurtful comments online (12.8%).[3] Research also indicates that girls are more likely to be cyberbullied than boys, with 38% of girls reporting cyberbullying as compared to 26% of boys reporting these same behaviors.[4]

    Cyberbullying can result in a variety of short and long-term physical and mental health consequences. In addition to potential changes in sleep and eating patterns, youth who experience bullying often experience a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, as well as increased feelings of sadness and loneliness and in severe cases, depression and anxiety.

    Over the coming months, Chartwells and Prevent Child Abuse America will provide you with concrete strategies to make sure your students remain safe in the digital world and to help you promote positive digital citizenship.

    And don't forget to visit our Facebook​ page for additional information and resources!



    [1] ConnectSafely.org

    [2] Brohl, K. (2015). Identifying and addressing cyber bullying. Social Work Continuing Education, pp. 57-73. Retrieved from SocialWork.EliteCME.com

    [3] Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2015). Cyberbullying victimization 2015. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved from http://cyberbullying.org/2015-data/cyberbullying-victimization-2015-2/

    ​[4]  Lenhart, A. (2007) Cyberbullying. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2007/06/27/cyberbullying/?utm_expid=53098246-2.Lly4CFSVQG2lphsg-KopIg.0&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pewinternet.org%2F2007%2F06%2F27%2Fmethodology-106%2F