For Jeremy Loader, nutrition program coordinator at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, inspiring kids to make healthier choices about eating and exercise is more than a hope, it’s a passion.
So, it was natural for him to take a lead role in engaging school staff and students in the 5210 Healthy Schools Program. Launched in 2010 by PAMF in partnership with El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, the program addresses the growing problem of childhood obesity. “The obesity epidemic is a huge problem in our schools,” he said. “It’s very sad to see a kindergartner getting winded just walking across the playground.” Jeremy meets with food service staff and administrators at local schools over the summer to gain support for the campaign. Once classes begin, he leads a series of school–wide assemblies to introduce the program to students. “We launch with a poster contest where the kids create artwork around the theme of 5210,” he said. “Then we display the posters around the school and use them to create a large banner facing the street. It’s a great way to give the students ownership of the program.”
Joana Silva, who teaches a special needs class of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at San Miguel Elementary School in Sunnyvale, has participated in the 5210 program since its inception. She works closely with Jeremy each year to roll out the program in her school, and she has seen many positive changes. “Before 5210, many of the kids didn’t play at recess, but now they do,” she said. “They’ve become far more conscious about the foods they choose.” Joana was also impressed with changes made in the school food service. “Jeremy played a huge role in advocating for healthier foods,” Joana said. “Thanks to his efforts, they no longer serve chocolate milk, sugary sodas and sugar–filled breakfast bars.”
Jeremy was thrilled to report that students are now fully engaged in the program, eagerly sharing stories about trying new, healthier foods and taking part in more physical activity. He described an after–school jump rope contest where 100 students competed. “One 3rd grader jumped 96 times in one minute!” he recalled. “We gave her a goal, she worked hard to reach it and she won the contest”
The 5210 program reached five schools during 2011-2012. For the 2012-2013 school year, the program will expand to include the entire Sunnyvale School District, plus schools in Mountain View and Campbell – a total of 15 schools. “Our 5210 website has tools that educators everywhere can use to replicate our program in their own school districts,” said Jeremy. “Our hope is that other schools will choose to make lasting changes in their food service while encouraging daily physical activity among their students.”