The school also developed a small garden where the chef, teachers and students shared the planting and harvesting chores.
Produce from the garden is served in cafeteria meals, giving students and staff a chance to try new foods, as well as get ideas on how fruits, vegetables, and even herbs, can be cooked and served.
In 2013, DeLaSalle began offering culinary arts classes that emphasized the use of fresh produce and healthy, unprocessed entrees.
Even the staff take on the healthy lifestyle, with a group exercise class after work.
Add in some windmills to build arm strength and balance.
Who would ever guess that teenagers and healthy living would be a likely combination – especially without a revolt?
At DeLaSalle Education Center, the move toward encouraging a healthier lifestyle for our students and staff was not an overnight event, and we’re still a work in progress, thanks to the ongoing commitment from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. The mission of our school is to provide a holistic environment that offers students an opportunity to improve learning and life skills. This philosophy allowed us to gradually incorporate various elements during the school day of what it means to live a healthier lifestyle into the overall school culture.
A decade ago, DeLaSalle launched its Healthy Lifestyles Program by integrating health and physical education curriculum into two classes daily, which provided an ideal introduction to the importance of good nutrition and exercise in the students’ lives.
Next came school policy changes ahead of their time that called for the removal of snack and soda vending machines from the school, and in 2009 “Healthy Lifestyles Days” were designated each quarter, during which teachers would create lesson plans that showed students how health and wellness could relate to all subject areas.
Sometimes those lessons even made it home to the students’ families, allowing everyone to reap the benefits. One female student said that her health class was making her more aware of what she and her family were eating on a daily basis. “We all decided to come to an agreement to eat right, drink right and exercise. There’s not a day that goes by where no one in my family forgets to exercise and eat healthy meals. Everyone has seen a difference, and now we’re saying, ‘We should have done this a long time ago!’”
In 2010, a chef was hired with a focus to include more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods in school meals. The school also developed a small garden where the chef, teachers and students shared the planting and harvesting chores. Produce from the garden is served in cafeteria meals, giving students and staff a chance to try new foods, as well as get ideas on how fruits, vegetables, and even herbs, can be cooked and served. A year later, a community garden was added in partnership with the Squier Park Neighborhood Association and nearby gardeners were invited to join the Healthy Lifestyles trend.
Students and adults alike were gaining exposure and a renewed taste for fresh fruits and vegetables. One of our neighborhood gardeners recalled this encounter:
A gentleman that owns a local business suspiciously walked by one day while I was picking tomatoes in the garden. He asked, “Are they like the ones you get in the store?” I told him they were a thousand times better. He walked over to the fence and I gave him a couple cherry tomatoes. He waited for me to eat mine first, then said, “Mmmmm that’s GOOD! That’s the best tomato I’ve ever had!”
With healthy eating and exercising building momentum for our students and their families, it only made sense for DeLaSalle in 2013 to venture into offering culinary arts classes that emphasized the use of fresh fruits and vegetables. The classes soon led to developing a state-certified culinary arts program, called ProStart® in partnership with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Now our students are not only eager to share what they know about nutritional values and calorie counts, but they also gladly share recipes and samples of what they’ve cooked for their families and others in the community.
In the fall of 2015, with the help of DeLaSalle’s health-care provider, Humana, a staff wellness program was off and running. Humana’s wellness component, Vitality, brought a Health Fair to the school, where all employees received complimentary health screenings. Humana Vitality also offers an online assessment for staff to identify their health and lifestyle factors. Staff can set goals on areas they would like to improve – all while earning incentives. In addition, a personal trainer met with a group of employees three times a week for 12 weeks last fall, and exercise challenges are being planned for the upcoming school year.
Now we’ve come full circle in our efforts to help our students and their families, our staff, and community members lead healthier lives. Our goal is to continue to “walk the talk” on the corner of 37th Street and Troost Avenue as we make better use of our walking trail, Challenge Course, as well as various outreach activities for our DeLaSalle family.