Improving the Health of Rural Students
University of Missouri Extension’s Active and Healthy School Program has helped students adopt healthier behavior at Leslie Bell Elementary School in Lexington.
Funded through a grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, this program has assisted Leslie Bell Elementary in fostering a healthier school environment that naturally encourages 353 rural, lower income students to increase their physical activity and make healthier nutrition choices.
Lynda Johnson, a Nutrition Specialist and Lafayette County Program Director, provided training and consultations to implement the key program components. Activity “zones” were incorporated on the playground so all students are moving throughout recess. (On traditional school playgrounds, less than 30 percent of students are actively engaged.) Teachers were trained to lead classroom “activity breaks” to help students focus on classroom learning and be more energized. Multi-faceted nutrition activities were coordinated with Oppa School Food Management such as more locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables served at lunch.
Due to the success of this pilot initiative, the district is now funding a paraprofessional position at the elementary school and five other Lafayette County elementary schools want to partner with MU Extension to implement the program.