As the school nurse at George D. Lisby Elementary School at Hillsdale, Ana Jakse said she has noticed a growing number of overweight children each year.
After she attended a national conference on the childhood obesity epidemic, she wanted to help do something about it, she said.
"Childhood obesity is a lot more than being too heavy," said Jakse, who has been a registered nurse for about 25 years. "It can lead to Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and orthopedic problems. And children who are heavy suffer from the stigma of being overweight. They don't come to school on days they have physical education or field days. I already see all of these problems with children at our school."
She returned to the school where she started a healthy-eating initiative, and applied for and received a grant to implement a healthy snack program in the classrooms and cafeteria, she said.
The healthy-eating program kicks off tomorrow with children being offered healthy foods of a pre-planned color at lunchtime. The pupils are also encouraged to wear clothes in the color of the day.
The following foods will be offered: Monday, purple plums, grapes and lettuce; Tuesday, red apples, watermelon and cherry tomatoes; Wednesday, orange and yellow baby carrots, corn, peaches and orange wedges; and Thursday, green broccoli, gelatin and honeydew melon.
Posters with color-related cartoon characters, including Grape Juice Jack, a cup of 100 percent juice; Carla Carrot, an orange carrot; and Brianna Broccoli, a green floret of broccoli, are hung throughout the school to help entice the kids to participate in the program, she said.
Coordinated by school nurses at more than 2,300 schools in 48 states, the program is modeled after P.A.C.K. (Pack Assorted Colors for Kids) Week, an initiative started by Welch's Grape Juice, she said.
Recently, Jakse received a $7,600 grant from the state Department of Education that will be used to implement a program so that healthy snacks like fruit will be offered daily in the classroom and in the cafeteria, she said.
She hopes to grow the program and implement other initiatives over time, she said. Through the program, children learn about healthy foods, she said.
"This program is wonderful. It gives us a chance to celebrate and educate healthy eating for our school-age program."