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Making Strides Toward Better Health at Cabazon Elementary

Cabazon Elementary School
Cabazon, California

Outdoor Class PhotoWhen it comes to eating well and being active, students at Cabazon Elementary School in California’s Banning Unified School District are up against some difficult challenges outside of their control. But thanks to a Game On grant from Action for Healthy Kids, sponsored by ALDI, and a dedicated administration and staff, the kids are making strides toward better health – both literally and figuratively.

With limited access to healthy food and few safe places to play, more than 44% of students in Banning Unified School District are overweight or obese; 48% are within an unhealthy aerobic capacity. According to Riverside County Community Health Assessment data, fewer than 49% of children in the county eat an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables.

What’s more, nearly 94% of Cabazon Elementary students qualify to receive free or reduced-price meals and consume a majority of their calories from the school’s breakfast, lunch, snack and supper program. The majority of students also get most of their physical activity at school, thanks to its safe and structured environment.

Given those statistics, Cabazon recognized that it was in a unique position to promote healthy behavior changes in eating habits and physical activity among students.

With the help of the grant funds, the school launched a series of nutrition promotion activities aimed at increasing students’ fruit and vegetable consumption, including healthy taste tests, garden activities, farmers’ markets and a farm-to-school program. To track its progress, Cabazon also used some of the funds to conduct plate waste studies. As the staff hoped, the studies have shown that fewer fresh fruits and vegetables are being wasted now that the initiatives are in place.

“It’s rewarding to see the students so excited about the healthy food choices we have been offering,” said food service worker Lisa Acosta. “The students take ownership of eating a healthful diet. They love to try new things and voice whether or not they would like to see them on the menu.”

Physical activity was the other piece of the puzzle. To get students moving daily outside of PE time, Cabazon used the grant funds to start a running club that encourages participants to log miles running and walking by offering them incentives for completing certain milestones. Principal Johnny Baker said it’s been a fun and engaging way to help kids develop a healthy pastime they can carry with them throughout life.

Because of Cabazon’s inspiring work to create a healthier school environment, it is currently applying for the Silver Level HealthierUS School Challenge Award.

“We are excited about all the strides we’re making to help our students and families make lifestyle changes to live healthier,” Baker said.

We wish them luck – in the HealthierUS School Challenge and in their continued efforts to help Cabazon students eat better and move more!