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High-Tech Prizes, Contests Dare F.C. Students to Examine Health

LUNCHlineFrom Nintendo Wiis to flip cameras, Falls Church City Public Schools’ 2010 Video and Poster Contests are using the allure of high-tech prizes to get students thinking about their health by figuring out how to best convey their concerns to others.

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FROM NACHOS TO a salad, Mason H.S. students are left to decide what to eat for lunch in the Mustang Café. (Photo: News-Press)

From Nintendo Wiis to flip cameras, Falls Church City Public Schools’ 2010 Video and Poster Contests are using the allure of high-tech prizes to get students thinking about their health by figuring out how to best convey their concerns to others.

“Building a Healthier You”-themed commercials can be shot by interested students enrolled in George Mason High, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle and Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Elementary. A poster contest on the same topic is open only to T.J. students.

The challenges are aimed to reinforce the importance of healthy living. Commercials will broadcast on the TVs in Mason High’s Mustang Café, with discussions still underway about playing them on F.C. City Television. Grand, second-place and runner-up prizes will be awarded for each contest.

F.C. City Public Schools (FCCPS) Food Services Director Richard Kane told the News-Press prizes will motivate the young, tech-driven generation to take their submissions more seriously.

“If they want to win one of these prizes badly enough, they’re going to think about the issues. It may be for a brief moment, but this is going to get them thinking about their own food choices,” said Kane, who’s been with FCCPS for three years. Before then, he managed the food service operation at the U.S. Naval Research Lab and at Georgetown Preparatory School.

Though Kane agrees with First Lady Michelle Obama’s position that childhood obesity has became a big problem in the U.S., he called the epidemic a “multi-faceted issue” and isn’t solely to blame on what kids are eating.

“When I grew up, there was a lot more outdoor recreation. Technology these days has kids sitting at home on the couch. School systems have changed their testing requirements, and with more classroom instruction, you have to cut from somewhere. And the parents are also to blame for feeding their children more convenience meals,” said Kane.

Still, he called food manufacturers the “biggest problem of all,” such as fast-food restaurants’ “values meals” that encourage overeating.

“Of course, I’m up against the most powerful marketing machine right across the street,” said Kane. A McDonald’s restaurant is within walking distance of Mason High.

Since signing with FCCPS, Kane changed the school lunch menus. Salads are now served at all city schools, and a salad bar has been built inside Mason High’s Mustang Café. He has also added milk to the vending machines, incorporated a healthy variety of snack-food options, and banned Kellog’s Pop-Tarts from being sold.

The breakfast snack is still sold, however, in Fairfax County Public High Schools, with the standard two-pack containing 413 calories, as reported in the school system’s online nutritional information.

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F.C.CITY PUBLIC Schools Food Services Director Richard Kane. (Photo: News-Press)

Fairfax County Schools Food and Nutrition Services Director Penny McConnell told the News-Press, “Pop-Tarts are a whole grain and they do provide some nutrition. A lot of high school students like grab-and-go snacks. I can’t tell a six-foot-tall football player he can’t have that.”

Kane referred to such snacks as “faux healthy foods,” adding that government regulations are also a problem since many problematic foods “could add enough essential vitamins to pass the test” with enforcement.

McConnell does, however, hope to eliminate french fries in Fairfax County schools. Until then, she’s decreased the amount of days they’re served per week down to two. She added that the fries are now baked instead of deep-fried and will be facing the competition of baked sweet potato fries in the near future.

Fairfax County Schools provides nutritional information in full on its website.

Kane recently provided carbohydrate counts online at Falls Church Schools’ website, with the added goal of making calories digitally transparent by the 2010-2011 school year.

“Many of the parents were happy to see the carb counts online because we have many students who are diabetic and need to know how much sugar they’re taking in,” said Kane.

• The entry deadline for Falls Church City Public Schools’ 2010 Video and Poster Contests is June 1. Official guidelines can be found at www.fccps.org.

 

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