Mary Castillo is the Food Service Director for Nordheim ISD, a small 1-A school in DeWitt County. “We were very happy to receive the award. It was a great experience,” Castillo stated.
Castillo heard about the Healthier US Schools Challenge at a workshop through the Region 3 Educational Service Center in Victoria, TX. The goal of the Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) is to improve the health of the Nation’s children by promoting healthier school environments. Mary took this seriously and decided she would accept this challenge.
In order to be considered for an award, a school must fill out an application and take several steps to ensure that they serve meals that reflect good menu planning principles. This includes things such as serving a variety of healthier foods that look good, taste good, and appeal to the cultural sensitivities of the school and community populations. They must also plan meals that emphasize more fruits, green vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
Castillo stated, “We also had to monitor all of these for a four week period and report it. I had to show we were teaching nutrition as well as offering healthier food choices,” she said.
One way to show that nutrition was being taught was to put up catchy nutrition posters in the cafeteria and hallways. Another was to show how nutrition and exercise were being incorporated into the school curriculum. To support this, a short explanation was written by core teachers describing how they included nutrition in some of their lessons. Castillo also took pictures of all grade levels during their PE classes playing physical games that had goals of learning about healthy foods.
Connie Waskow, also a food service employee at Nordheim School, combined forces with Castillo to help make the effort a successful one. Consequently, Waskow accompanied Castillo on the trip. “It was great,” said Waskow. “Everything was beautiful.”
Monday evening’s event began with three security checkpoints, including one metal detector, before entering the beautiful White House Garden. The garden was lush and green with rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Castillo and Waskow, along with other award recipients were allowed to peruse the garden and mingle on the White House Lawn as a military band played in the background. There was also a large sculpture of an apple made of apples itself.
“It was really neat,” declared Castillo.
For a healthy snack, guests were offered fresh apples, water and apple cider.
The culminating event was a speech by the First Lady.
“She spoke about healthier choices, physical activity and continuing to promote this in our schools,” Castillo said. “It’s basically what we have been doing.”
Due to the efforts of Castillo and Waskow, Nordheim School was awarded $1000 to use in their school cafeteria. This money will continue to further the efforts of the school to help students make healthier choices.