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Snacking Their Way to Success

AHSTW High School
Avoca, Iowa

Between homework, practice, friends and Friday night lights, high school students have a lot of demands on their time – and when it comes to fueling their bodies, they tend to favor convenience over nutrition. That was the case at AHSTW (Avoca, Hancock, Shelby, Tennant and Walnut) High School in Avoca, Iowa, where teachers and coaches started noticing that students weren’t always making healthy choices that supported their academic and athletic goals. Hoping to change that, they formed a school health team and applied for an Action for Healthy Kids grant for the 2017-2018 school year. The $1,000 Game On grant they received, made possible by financial contributions from Children’s Hospital & Medical Center of Omaha, gave them the seed money they needed to create two new programs. The goals: facilitating healthy snack choices to keep athletes and active students performing at their best during practice, and engaging all students in finding ways outside of organized sports to stay active throughout their lives.

Through the “Strong Snacks” program, the school began providing all students with cheese sticks, fruit or whole-grain granola bars to refuel before heading to their extracurricular activity or club. By making the connection between food and fuel, students were able to visualize how their food choices impacted their performance ability.

“I can’t believe how many students participate in the program and the difference they notice in their performance when they take the Strong Snacks versus not having a snack or eating junk,” said PE teacher GG Harris.

Ninth grade student Joe Kenkel agreed. “The snack options are great, and they keep me from either not eating at all or eating junk,” he said.

The health team also started “Active Your Way,” a recess initiative designed for high school students and staff, during a midday seminar period. Staff members took turns leading a physical activity based on their expertise as part of a six-week rotation, and students selected one of six “recess” activities to participate in: yoga, walking, Ultimate Frisbee, weight lifting, dancing or kickboxing. In addition to increasing the average amount of time students were active at school from 37 to 80 minutes daily, “Active Your Way” gave students and staff a time and place to learn together and build positive relationships.

Both programs were a success, and in honor of Every Kid Healthy Week, AHSTW High School students hosted activities and projects at the district-wide STEM & Health Festival to teach healthy nutrition choices and physical activitiesto younger students. After the grant term ended, the AHSTW Booster Club even fundraised to continue the “Strong Snacks” program because they felt it was such an important part of equipping students to succeed in the classroom, on the field and in life.