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David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
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Local Students Get a Taste of Something New

You know the number one reason why people consistently choose one food over another? Because it tastes good.

While it may not sound like breaking news to some of us, researchers are forever looking at our eating habits and buying patterns to better understand why we choose one food over another, particularly why, sometimes, we make the wrong choices. Like, say, choosing super-size French fries over a fruit cup.

So what are we to do when the taste of our favorite foods starts to lose its luster?

As part of the 2014 National Nutrition Month theme, "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right," the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to explore new foods and flavors, keeping taste and nutrition on your plate at every meal. This is something the New Mexico Department of Health’s Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Las Cruces program has been encouraging not just this month, but for years now.

Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Las Cruces is a collaborative with a lot of partners in a variety of settings working in healthcare, families and communities, education, community and regional planning, and even the food system.

And let me tell you – there may be no better place in town to learn how to "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right," than in school.

Las Cruces Public School District is the second largest school district in New Mexico. Located 45 miles north of the Mexican border, it encompasses the City of Las Cruces, the villages of La Mesilla and Doña Ana, and covers the middle third of Doña Ana County.

As we mentioned in last week’s column, Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS) has played a huge role both educating about healthy eating and doing its part to combat the state’s obesity problem.

At a time when the state’s obesity rates are showing signs of decreasing after years of rising, LCPS stands as a crown jewel of what our public schools can do, not just to incorporate nutrition lessons into their curriculum, but put those lessons into practice.

“We’re all about healthy kids,” said LCPS Health and Nutrition Specialist Barbara Berger. “We are always looking for new and better ways to improve the nutrition environment in the schools.”

Berger is a former Health Promotions Specialist at the Department of Health and a ten year LCPS veteran. She and the district have been part of a movement that has moved quickly to change for the better:

  • The Las Cruces school district was at the forefront of many nationwide in 2006 when it and schools statewide acted on the then-new state legislation regulating foods sold in schools. The change improved the quality of snack foods sold on campuses. New Mexico was among the first state to regulate sodas and snack foods. Some states still don’t, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is only going to start regulating it nationwide this July, proving LCPS years ahead of the curve.
  • Berger and her boss LCPS Nutrition Services Director Nancy Cathey are considered key to switching recess in elementary schools before lunch instead of after. Research shows in recess-first schools, there is a lot more food eaten than thrown away.
  • They’ve also developed nutrition education with real food. Instead of just lectures, healthy food is delivered to the classroom where kids taste for themselves how fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and water beat anything breaded, fried, surgery or processed.
  • FFVP can be an important tool in our efforts to combat childhood obesity. The Program has been successful in introducing school children to a variety of produce that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to sample.LCPS has established the federally funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) in 14 of its schools to not just give students a taste through the monthly lesson, but instead give kids a fresh fruit or vegetable snack every day.
  • Cathey and Berger also coordinated with six middle and high schools to create the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) challenge in which the school’s media programs create films promoting a healthier school environment.

All of it adds up to LCPS and its partnership with Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Las Cruces being something unique. To date, Las Cruces is home to the only elementary schools in New Mexico nationally recognized in the HealthierUS School Challenge.

Aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and abroad.

Created by the USDA, the challenge recognizes schools for excellence in nutrition and physical activity. The schools have the opportunity to become certified as Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Gold of Distinction Schools, depending on meeting certain criteria.

LCPS’s elementary schools have achieved Silver status, with not another single school in the state coming close.

So if LCPS and Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Las Cruces have proven anything, it’s adding more nutrition and pleasure to each meal is an easy way of expanding the range of foods students, even their parents, choose.

That makes both organizations a model for learning to eat right.

For more information please visit the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities section of our website.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.