Healthy marks for our schools
A RECENT survey has revealed Gympie primary schools are providing supportive environments for the health of their students.
Margo Bell, a student dietitian from University of the Sunshine Coast, recently conducted a survey of health initiatives being implemented in state primary schools in the Gympie Regional Council area.
The project was part of her public health work placement with Gympie Community Health.
The survey results showed Gympie primary schools were prioritising the health of students by implementing a range of strategies and initiatives.
Michelle Gilmore, community nutritionist at Gympie Health Service, said the survey also highlighted that the majority of schools provided in-class fruit breaks every day and all schools allowed students to have water bottles in the classroom.
"These two strategies are very important. Research tells us that providing fruit and vegetable breaks and free access to drinking water in class is an effective way of increasing intake," Ms Gilmore said.
"When children are eating more fruit and vegetables and drinking more water, they are eating and drinking less of the unhealthy snacks and drinks."
Ms Bell's survey also identified that none of the schools who took part in the survey had a vending machine.
"Most importantly, none of the schools is intending on installing a machine in the next 12-18 months," she said.
"As vending machines generally contain energy-dense, nutrient-poor snacks and drinks, the decision by Gympie schools not to have vending machines is a great strategy to create a supportive environment for healthy eating."
Edible school gardens, an initiative of Gympie Community Health to promote early life nutrition, were also high on the agenda in Gympie primary schools.
"Within 12-18 months, all except one school will have a school garden, which is great news for Gympie school children," Ms Bell said.
"Edible school gardens are a wonderful way to teach kids about nutrition and they get to taste-test their produce, which can be an exciting way for kids to try new fruit and vegetables.
"It was also great to find that more than half of the schools surveyed are providing some form of bike and road education.
"As a high proportion of school children are exposed to road safety dangers in their travel to and from school, it is important for them to be aware of the risks.
"They also should be encouraged to consider the health and safety of themselves and others when it comes to road safety issues."
Ms Gilmore said Gympie primary schools should feel very proud of themselves. "They are being very proactive with creating supportive environments for health, which will improve the long-term health outcomes of Gympie children and their families."